Here’s a quick overview, with all you need to know about The Revenant Ultra Adventure Run… When, What, Who, Where and Links to all the websites.
Nuts and Bolts – What You Need To Know
WHEN: January 18-20, 2019
WHERE: Welcome Rock Trails, Garston
WHAT: The inaugural running of the Revenant, the first-ever race of its kind in New Zealand.
Race Directors: Leroy de Beer
Leroy de Beer is an ex-military man with a passion for fitness and running. Originally from Pretoria, he owns PT Central — a gym in Alexandra — as well as being a sought-after long-distance-running coach. Now, with his new business Off The Grid Events NZ first race, Leroy’s causing waves of excitement in the running community with the Revenant’s extreme challenge.
Scott Worthington’s a businessman and longtime runner, Ironman and Adventurer. Originally from Auckland, Scott and his family now love to call Alexandra their home.
He’s passionate about the outdoors and loves the synergy between The Revenant race and Welcome Rock Trails. You can read more of Scott’s story at Behind the Revenant.
Want to see a little bit more of The Revenant and its directors? Leroy and Scott give a few clues in their Race Hints video series here on Facebook.
Many of the names of the hardy souls who’ve been selected for entry into this inaugural Adventure Run are currently a secret, but they’re a diverse bunch of men and women from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the USA.
I’ve heard hints that one’s a professional cyclist. Others are runners or come from the Ironman fraternity. Some are from the military, others are passionate Adventure racers. I’m willing to bet there’s at least one who’s raced in the Godzone before.
All will be revealed at the race briefing on January 18th.
SPECIAL UPDATE: Meet the competitors at the Garston Hotel from 4pm Thursday, 17th January.
Don’t miss this unique opportunity to meet these legends of adventure.
Hosts/Venue: Tom and Katie O’Brien and Welcome Rock Trails
Welcome Rock Trails is a unique and special part of the Southland High Country. Within its boundaries, you’ll find almost every sort of terrain available in this area — river, mountain, bush, tussock, valley and a special history that’s been loving preserved and celebrated in the creation of the Welcome Rock Cycling Trail.
The Revenant fits well into the ethos of Welcome Rock. Both have a sense of the special history in the hills above Garston, a desire for minimal impact on the environment and a passion to create an experience that lasts well beyond the moment.
The Revenant Race Directors are thrilled to welcome Giltrap VW Commercial as the sponsor for their inaugural Ultra Adventure Run. VW is providing vehicles for the shuttle service up to the race start, and as you can see from the Revenant Facebook page, Scott and Leroy have been using one of their super smooth and reliable Amarok V6 utes to get around on their Revenant duties.
I sat down with Scott Worthington of The Revenant Ultra Adventure Run to ask him about this exciting event happening here, above Garston, in January 2019.
You’ve obviously got a huge passion for this race. What led you to create it?
I’m always looking for a challenge. Now there’s a race in the States called the Barkley Marathon and it’s something I’ve always looked at. It’s the ultimate running challenge and it’s a very quirky race; very difficult to get into. It’s cryptic — you don’t even know when it opens — so even the entry process is sort of reflective of the challenge. I’ve tried three times to get in and have never had a reply.
So that’s really what created the spark. I thought; “We’ve got some pretty difficult and unique terrain in New Zealand so why not put something on here? So that’s really where it started.
Why is it called The Revenant Ultra Adventure Run?
I’ve always liked the word Revenant.
Obviously, a few people have said: “Oh you’ve named it after the movie.”
No, I haven’t!
A lot of people don’t know what revenant means but basically, it’s a spiritual thing — that’s one definition, someone’s spirit coming back from the dead.
But it’s also defined as someone who goes away for a long period of time and reemerges.
So it seemed that as we were creating a challenge where people would go off for a long period of time and there was a high probability they wouldn’t re-emerge (ie finish) anyone who did finish deserved a pretty good accolade.
I can’t think of anything better than being called a revenant, and that’s how we came up with the name.
What’s the race format and what will happen during the race?
The Revenant is a lap-based race. The competitors will go four laps and each lap is basically the same distance. They will have 60 hours to complete those laps. Each lap has to be done in the reverse direction and they will not know what the starting direction will be until they’re at the start line. So once we tell them what the first lap direction is they have to alternate after that.
Competitors also have to follow a set number of checkpoints which basically lead them around the course, but they get route choice in between. So they have to decide how to get from one checkpoint to the next.
At each checkpoint, there might be challenges or information they’ve got to digest and every time they come through they get the opportunity to give up or continue. Later in the race, there are time parameters which they have to meet. If someone’s got no hope of completing it in the time left we’ll pull them out.
The Revenant is an exciting innovation for Welcome Rock Trails. What makes this the perfect place to run an ultra-endurance event like yours?
When I first started thinking about this race I wanted to do it in a uniquely Kiwi way. The Barkley was just the beginning.
The terrain around here varies quite a bit but you’ve got to travel to get to different types like Fiordland bush, or high-country tussock. But a few years ago I did a running race that Tom put on and that’s where I saw the property.
Welcome Rock is the perfect place for The Revenant Ultra Adventure Run because within a loop of roughly 50km you can travel across just about every type of terrain that we have in the area; rocks, water, bush, tussock and more. That’s pretty unique.
Who’s running this inaugural race and what was your selection process?
The type of person that we thought would enter was going to reflect what we called the race. It’s called an Ultra Adventure Run for a reason, it’s not just 3 words strung together.
So, basically, Ultra — you’re looking for people who can do long distance; Adventure — that’s the map and compass type navigation and that’s adventure racing; And then the Run. If you’re going to finish this race in the time allowable then you’ll have to be able to run where the terrain allows.
So the people coming are a good cross-section. We’ve got adventure racers who are learning how to run. We’ve got runners who are learning how to navigate. They’re all on the fringe in terms of long distance.
Then we have the military aspect. Leroy, my partner who’s putting the event on, is ex-military and it was his idea to do that.
So we’ve got Navy Seals from the United States and some of our Elite Forces from New Zealand.
And that’s great because a lot of the fringe endurance athletes like to measure themselves and our people in the military are generally pretty good. So it’s a good measure.
What are your goals for this first event, and what is your vision for its future?
For this first event, our focus is really putting on the best event we possibly can.
We’ve got a great sponsor in VW Commercial, but we haven’t overly worried about how many people turn up and therefore the way we’ve publicized it has been fairly organic. We just want to make sure that the event we put on is the best it can possibly be.
And we think after that the rest will follow.
We want to establish this worldwide as a true adventure challenge.
How can people get involved in the build-up?
The race briefing and the start on January 18th will be the only times you’ll see all the competitors together.
VW Commercial has given us vehicles to transport people up to the start after the competitors have been taken up there. That’ll be a shuttle service, and that’s when we really encourage people to come — to the briefing at the Garston Hotel and the start on Welcome Rock Trails.
And how can we follow the race while it’s on?
We’ve opted not to go for live tracking because that’s notoriously unreliable, but also because of the nature of the event. The Revenant is really for the competitor, not for the supporter. It’s a bit of a back to basics sort of race.
However, we will have a live Facebook feed. There’ll be volunteers out on the course to keep an eye on things and they’ll be able to radio in snippets of information as they see the competitors go by. So that’ll be on the live feed, but you won’t be tracking individual people.
Personally, I think that this inaugural Revenant Ultra Adventure Run is an exciting new event for Welcome Rock Trails and for the village of Garston. You can be sure that I’ll be there at the start line to cheer the competitors on.
Scott Worthington is co-creator and race director of the inaugural Revenant Ultra Adventure Run being held on Welcome Rock Trails in January 2019. It was a privilege to chat with Scott and discover a little about the Man Behind the Revenant.
How Far Can You Go?
Something I’d always wanted to do was travel on the Trans Siberian Express. It seemed like the ultimate railway adventure. So one hot Siberian Summer my wife and I took the plunge and got on board.
It might have been easier if we’d spoken Russian.
Siberia is vast — you can travel for half a day and suddenly there, in the middle of nowhere, you see two houses and then boom they’re gone and it might be another half a day before you arrive at a station.
But for some unfathomable reason every now and then the train stops. No station — not even any houses — it just stops and people get off and wander around. And there never seems to be a signal. No lights, no whistles blowing, nothing! Even at a station, there’s no signal. People wandering around suddenly reboard and the train starts again.
For a while, we didn’t dare leave our carriage. But there was no air conditioning and it was stinking hot. So next time the train pulled up at a station loads of people got off. We decided surely it’d be safe for us to go too.
So we wandered up and down, keeping a nervous eye on our carriage door, and suddenly the train started moving. We started waving and hurrying beside it, but it just went faster.
Help! The Train Won’t Stop
Now we’re really striding out and I thought “I’ve got to get my wife on the train,” so I threw her into the open doorway.
But now I’m actually running to keep up and the door’s getting away on me so in desperation I wait till the next carriage door comes along AND IT’S CLOSED. Now I’m in serious trouble — I’ve got to get on board!
So I leapt at the door-step and hung on for dear life.
STILL THE TRAIN DOESN’T STOP. I look up and there’s my wife’s head, poking out of the window and she’s yelling something I can’t hear. Then, suddenly, every window in both carriages opens up and all along heads are poking out of the train, yelling and hooting — I’m just the world’s best entertainment.
I had to get inside the train. The only thing I could think of was to get around the end of the carriage and onto the gangway that sways over the couplings.
So I peered around the corner and saw it. A gangway, a wobbly chain and a handle, all looking too far away for comfort. I’d have to leap around the corner and grab onto the vertical handlebar beside the door.
So that’s what I did. To hoots and hollers from all the spectators I edged to the corner and launched myself at the handlebar. Somehow I grabbed it — and got a toehold on the gangway. After that, getting on board was a piece of cake.
We didn’t get off the train again.
Surely I’ve seen this scene in a Bruce Willis thriller?
But no! This is the tale that comes straight to Scott Worthington’s mind when I ask about his most memorable, cliff-hanger adventure. Suddenly I understand how Scott can envisage a race as hair-raising as The Revenant.
Adventure and Risk — They’re in Scott’s DNA.
Scott Worthington comes from a family of adventurers. You could say it’s in his blood. How far back the trait goes it’s impossible to tell. Certainly, Scott’s grandfather had it in spades.
Growing up in tough circumstances in pre-war England he’d emigrated to New Zealand — as far away as he could get. But England was still home, and his urge to protect it was strong. As soon as France fell he enlisted in the army.
He ended up in the 21st regiment as a radio operator in the Long Range Corps (forerunner of the SAS). Somehow he survived all the big battles and made it back to New Zealand. Scott grew up hearing his grandfather’s confidences — good and bad, terrible and scary — and learned what it meant to be tough and to survive.
“My Dad was an outdoorsman too,” says Scott. He went on this amazing adventure and spent three years cycling around Europe. Of course, this was motivation enough for Scott to want to do it too.
The Journey Toward Endurance and Adventure
So, aged 18, Scott boarded the last commercial passenger boat sailing from New Zealand to England and six weeks later he embarked on his own two-year cycling odyssey around Europe.
Back home in Auckland, he spotted a commotion near the park. It seemed to be a bike race — which turned into a run. “It’s the latest sporting craze. They call it Ironman,” his fellow spectators said.
Scott decided that running a marathon after riding a 180km bike race sounded like just his cup of tea.
No one mentioned that you kicked the whole shebang off with a nearly-4km swim first. That was a slight problem since Scott’s swimming skills were of the “flounder back to the boat” variety.
But if you try hard enough you can overcome anything. So Scott began to haunt the local pool, swimming length after length until flounder turned to flying-fish.
It’s taking on an almost impossible task and seeing how far you can go.
Time For a New Challenge
After a while, Scott decided that he was as good at Ironman as he was going to get. He needed a new challenge.
Enter adventure racing. Now, this was something he could really get his teeth into.
Adventure racing is a multi-disciplinary team or solo sport involving navigation over an unmarked wilderness course. A race can extend over hours, days or even weeks and stretch participants to the limits of endurance and courage.
You need fitness, wit, courage, skill, communication, teamwork and absolute determination to succeed to complete such a race.
Scott is hooked on the combination.
He’s competed in the legendary New Zealand Godzone races several times and often trains by doing mountainous solo adventure challenges.
But the one race that Scott has never entered — and not for want of trying — is the infamous Barkley Marathon.
So what do you do if you’ve tried three times but haven’t found the secret recipe to enter the Barkley Marathon? If you’re Scott Worthington you get cracking on starting your own unique race.
Creating The Revenant; A Kiwi Ultra Adventure Run
It was actually Leroy de Beer, of adventure company Off The Grid Events who came up with the idea of a New Zealand Barkley-style Adventure run and Scott couldn’t wait to be involved.
The Barkley may have been the inspiration, but The Revenant is a New Zealand race and has features that are pure Kiwi.
The exact course, the competitors, the selection process, the finish line… these are all a closely-guarded secret right now, but I can tell you that developing the race has taken thousands of hours of planning and exploration and every step has been taken with meticulous attention to detail. This inaugural Revenant Adventure Run at Welcome Rock Trails will be a race to remember for a lifetime.
Small, tantalising hints keep appearing on The Revenant Facebook page. Some competitors are coming from all over the world, some from closer to home.
One decided to sail halfway across the globe — as a “small side adventure”— in order to take part.
Another decided to turn a scheduled meeting with Scott into a training run and spent a day and night running miles through the Florida swamps (risking bears and alligators along the way) and still made it in time for lunch.
These are the sorts of men and women who dare to challenge themselves in ways the rest of us can only stare in amazement at.
There’s no doubt that James McNamee is a man of many missions. To us, he’s the mover and shaker behind our farm’s fledgeling hop business. At work, he’s a team leader who inspires loyalty and commitment. In fact, one of James’ biggest strengths lies in team building.
James may have physically left Garston many years ago, but it’s a place still dear to his heart. So it was with some delight — and perhaps trepidation — that in September he let his separate worlds collide. That turned out to be a win for all.
The occasion was the Fulton Hogan Communications Team annual conference; the purpose was Team Building, inclusiveness and open communication and the result was wildly successful — beyond any of our expectations.
Fulton Hogan employees and representatives from partner companies Telstra, Spark, Mobile Mentor and DataCom flew into Queenstown from all parts of Australia and New Zealand. But before the conferencing and presentations they came further south for a “Garston and Beyond” experience that many will never forget.
Day 1: Garston
It’s nearly lambing time on the farm and we had the conveyor in to give the ewes their pre-lamb treatments.
In days gone by this was a slow and back-breaking job which took ages and stressed sheep and workers alike. But with the advent of conveyor contractors, the ewes get their vaccinations, long-lasting drench and mineral supplements in one morning’s work. The whole thing proved to be fascinating to our visitors.
They couldn’t help with injecting the vaccinations etc of course but they loved the birds-eye viewing platform we’d arranged. Some thoroughly enjoyed mucking in and getting their hands (and boots) dirty in the yards, helping to move the sheep up to the conveyor.
Gavin proved particularly handy in the pen. I don’t know if he had worked with sheep before but he seemed to be a bit of a natural. It wasn’t long before he learned just how strong pregnant sheep can be. It’s not easy when a sheep barges back at you, but he soon found the knack toturning them around.
Soon it was time for a typical farm “smoko’ — morning tea— and then we moved onto the second task for the day.
Stringing Up The Hop Frames
Hops grow tall — basically as tall as they can get and most of the flowers grow at the upper levels. So when the shoots start to appear in late spring we wind the best ones up 4-metre high strings. These are cut down with the plant at harvest time so fresh strings need to go up each spring.
This was the task James now set his team, and they were delighted to help. It’s a job that takes longer than you’d think and definitely proved a team building winner.
Once they got a system worked out, things flowed smoothly and they got more than half the required strings up. It was so helpful to us — saving us a lot of work at a busy time of year — and I think the team enjoyed knowing that they were doing real farm work instead of a manufactured experience.
Walking To Welcome Rock
We wanted to give our visitors a taste of the high country, so who better to call on than Tom O’Brien at Welcome Rock Trails.
There’s nothing like standing on top of a mountain drinking in the views and we were so lucky with the weather. I’ve been up that mountain in many different conditions: howling gales, rain, snow, mist not to mention scorching sun. But on this day there was none of that: the weather gods gave us calm and warm, with a touch of cloud. Perfect!
Snow To Delight And “Fight”
If I had to sum up the walk in just one phrase it would be snowball fights. While most of the trail was clear and dry, there was just enough snow in the sheltered spots to make it interesting — especially for those who had not seen snow before.
Of course, James threw the first snowball.
After that the air filled with flying snow missiles every time we encountered a new patch. Unfortunately for the team James managed to evade all their snowballs on the way up, while still landing a few telling blows of his own.
The team got their revenge on the way home. No longer needing James to lead the way, they forged ahead and ambushed him while he was distracted by a phone call.
Walking The Trail To A Welcome Lunch
Even without snow, the 27 km trail is a perfect introduction to the New Zealand high country. Don’t worry: we didn’t make our guests walk quite that far. The 45 minute hike to the actual Welcome Rock gave a taste of adventure and plenty of steps to add to the 10,000-steps-a-day “Steptember Challenge” which many of them were doing.
And just down the track from the rock was the welcome sight of Slate Hut and the smell of food. Laura, from Real Country and Hamish (local friend, farmer and neighbour) were busy barbequing a much-needed feast. It seemed a long time since the morning’s smoko.
Guns And Bows: A New Experience
Retracing our steps past Welcome Rock and down the Nevis Road, the team headed to the Real Country base at Kingston where Laura had organised clay bird shooting and archery.
Clay birds, for the uninitiated, are discs about the size of a CD, which are shot into the air out of a spring-loaded trap. It takes a good bit of coordination to hit a moving target, which makes clay shooting quite a challenge.
I must say, the team proved pretty handy at both activities. There’s nothing like the thrill of aiming at and hitting your target, so it proved to be a fun challenge to end a tiring day.
Day 2: Mavora to Mount Nick
Southland is full of amazing scenery and diversity, but we couldn’t show it all in a day, so we loaded up the four-wheel drives and Laura’s van and headed west towards the back blocks that hold a special place in McNamee hearts.
As the crow flies, the Mavora Lakes and Mount Nicholas Station are really just over the hill. Unfortunately we’re not crows, so we had to take the long way round by road. The clouds were down and drizzle fell often, which made us especially thankful for Sunday’s fine weather.
I haven’t been into the Mavoras (as they’re known locally) for years, but they were just as beautiful as I remembered.
There’s magic in misty lakes and mountains and the lakes were serene and still. They were a lovely place for the “Steptember crowd” to get a few more steps in — but woe betide those who came back late to lunch.
The road to Mount Nicholas is full of memories for the McNamee clan. The gravel track arrows through the back-country that they’ve mustered and sweated — or shivered — in over the many years that the McNamee’s have known the Butsons (station owners.)
As we trundled towards Lake Wakatipu, James memories came flooding out. That long fence-line disappearing into the distance — 3 of his brothers built it back in the ‘70s. There’s the Von Hut nestling under the mountain: we’ve heard many a tale about Fall Musterers and the nights they spent there with the dogs and horses bedded down outside.
Now we remember the story of one brother becoming disoriented in a snowstorm on one particularly difficult muster. He’d have died if his dogs hadn’t cuddled warmly around him. And the one about a teenage James — allowed to tag along one day. He jumped over a creek, didn’t quite make it and ended up with a wet boot. Too scared to mention the problem in case he was sent back, he learned an important lesson instead.
Turns out it’s pretty hard to keep up with an experienced mountain musterer when you’re slipping and sliding inside wet boots.
All too soon, it seemed, our journey had finished. We’d stopped at Home Creek, talked with Bruce, the Mt Nicholas tourism operator, at the enormous woolshed and trundled the road between stations down to the Walter Peak wharf where the team was due to catch the Earnslaw steamship back to Queenstown.
This was goodbye time for the Garston crew. We were driving the trucks back along the track.
It says a lot for the inclusiveness of the conference team that we were sorry to see them go. Tom, Hamish, Laura and I loved meeting and spending time with this diverse bunch of people.
While we were trundling back the way we came, there was one last treat in store for the team. They had been in at the beginning of our hop story — now they were heading to the home of the beer brewed from last year’s hop crop.
Altitude Brewing took all of our green hops last year and made a special brew — Jimmy Mac’s — with them. I”ve heard from those in the know that it’s a pretty good beer.
No doubt the team got to taste it — and some of the others on offer at Altitude’s newly-opened premises down by the lake near Frankton.
Team Building — Know, Like And Trust
Making connections and building understanding and trust is a theme that runs through a number of my posts. After all, people are more likely to be friends… to do business… to connect… with people they know, like and trust.
It’s a lesson that many businesses today are beginning to learn; that collaboration and cooperation, social enterprise and ethical practices work better in the long run. They’re better for our health, our environment, our politics and our world.
It seems to me, after meeting the IT Service team from Fulton Hogan, that this is a group actively building the know, like and trust factor.
I guess this is best expressed by Neville, who wrote:
It has been a real highlight of my year & I am at a bit of a loss to properly express just what a great time I had! Meeting the other vendors face to face was very valuable, as was spending time with your team outside of our normal daily work-situation. The time away has reinforced to me just how special those relationships are.
So really, in the end, it’s all about people, how you treat them and the relationships you forge. I’ve taken a few lessons from James’ book over the years I’ve known him, but this is surely one of the best.