The very first Revenant Competitors have given of their best and the much-anticipated Ultra Adventure Run has come and gone.
It had drama and humour; tension and courage; camaraderie and respect.
Watching it all unfold was unforgettable.
Briefing 1: At The Garston Hotel, Thursday 16:00
When our dusty Mazda turned in, the hotel car park was already overflowing. In the bar I could barely hear the bartender as locals, supporters and racers mingled and mixed. The Revenant competitors were easy to spot; their common denominator was intensity.
You could have heard a pin drop when the briefing began. With no microphones, we had to listen intently to catch every detail.
This race is cryptic.
It was designed to be an enigma, so the race directors didn’t give everything away at the first briefing. Instead, throughout the evening they teased with a drip-feed of tantalising clues.
“You have 60 hours to complete four laps — and make damn sure you solve ALL the clues if you want to drink the whisky!”
Drink the whisky???
That’s your reward.
No glamour, no glitz, no money; just the ultimate satisfaction of knowing that you finished and added your number to the Revenant hall of fame.
Only you, the revenant, can open the coveted Welcome Rock whisky bottle and savour the taste of victory.
Revenant Competitors: One Race Number Forever
“Your number is yours for life,” Leroy said. Whenever you return — your number will be waiting for you.
So in 2019, these names are forever etched on the Revenant Competitors roll:
Chad Wright 1
Shawn Webber 2
Leo Pershall 3
Jean Beaumont 4
Shaun Collins 5
Andrew Charles 6
Peter Donnelly 7
Tom Reynolds 8
Mathew Jeans 9
Bronwyn Mckeage 10
Angus Watson 12
Joel Thomas 15
Tony Sharpe 16
Dave Vitakangas 17
Tim Sutton 22
Matt Hamblett 24
Ian Evans 25
Alistair Shelton 26
Mike Field 27
Shane Tebutt 28
Bob Hun 33
So awesome to open such a heritage. How does it feel, Chad, being number one?
- Maps distributed ✔
- Numbers revealed✔✔
Just like that, Race Briefing One was done and dusted.
“Start plotting your course,” said Scott.
He could have saved his breath. Every competitor’s head was already bent over the maps they’d been waiting months to see.
Briefing 2: At The Woolshed, 21:00
The music was pumping in the O’Brien’s old woolshed. “Born to be wild” boomed Steppenwolf, and the wild ones gathered, eager for more clues.
No one really understood what they were preparing to endure, but one thing was already clear. The challenge would be monumental.
Every now and then the race directors revealed more vital info.
“Collect a numbered page from the book at each checkpoint. Keep the pages safe — if they’re wrong you’re out!”
Solemnly, occasionally cracking a nervous joke, competitors dropped their phones into plastic postal bags which Scott sealed and handed back.
“These are for emergencies only,” reminded Leroy.
Maybe I wasn’t alone in breathing a small prayer that no-one would need to break that seal.
Race Start — The Adventure Begins: 23:01
A nervous crowd gathered at the old tin hut which was Revenant HQ.
Shrouded in mountain mist Tim Riwihi’s haka rang through the dark, adding another spine-tingling piece to the Revenant legend.
Ko Ranginui te Atua, E tu nei. E au au aue ha, hi…Ko Papatuanuku te Atua, e takoto nei. E au au aue ha, hi… Ko Tu Matauenga Te Atua…E au au aue ha, hi.
Without warning the race directors joined in then, suddenly, out of the darkness, the women sang. Romsey de Beer and Kowhai Riwihi were adding their own magic to the moment.
E whakatere ana koutou te hikoi i te wa nei. Haere mai, kia ora, kia kaha kou tou
Navigate your way safely… Welcome … stand strong
This haka was specially written for the Revenant with words of challenge, respect and well-wishing.
It ended with a hongi between Scott, Leroy and each competitor — a “sharing of breath” which signified the transformation of the manuhiri (visitor) into tangata whenua (people of the land.)
It was the perfect way to start the race.
Ten – nine — everyone joined the countdown — three – two – one – GO!
As one, the racers surged forward and disappeared into the fog. We wouldn’t see any of them again for a long, long time.
Race HQ: The Historic Ski Hut, Friday 0900
All night, the organisers had been waiting-out the dark.
The HQ crew bunked in the ski hut, and out on the course the volunteers and marshalls were holed up at Mud Hut. There wasn’t much anyone could do before dawn.
But the competitors raced on through the impenetrable night.
Morning came, briefly clear… and then the blanketing mist rolled back in.
The tension at HQ was palpable. The marshalls were getting fleeting glimpses of an odd racer here and there and radioing in their sightings. Would anyone make it back to HQ on time?
Back at the ski hut the wait certainly wasn’t boring.
There were so many characters to meet. People had come from all over New Zealand and abroad, and from many walks of life to be on the mountain that day.
Countless others were following every Facebook update with bated breath.
The Forest Of Doom — Aka C.P. 8
Checkpoint 8 was causing navigational nightmares.
A tree in a clearing — how hard can that be? In the foggy Revenant country, it was causing chaos and despair.
One tree, a single clearing in a forest of trees on a slope so steep and cluttered with debris that every step was treacherous. If you navigated absolutely correctly — and had a little bit of luck — you’d go straight there (so Scott assured me).
Possibly, the competitors would beg to differ. 3 hours… 4 hours… more… they stubbornly searched, refusing to give in. The mist added an impossible dimension.
Finally, they teamed up and worked together, until, at last, they found that vital clue.
15 Hours In
Finally, finally, the sun came out and three tiny figures appeared over the skyline.
“Like a Revenant rising,” breathed Scott.
Angus (12) Tim (22), and Ian (25) were completing their first lap.
We supporters couldn’t contain our excitement and our cheers rang out. But once the men arrived at HQ, all the spectators fell silent.
While Scott and Leroy greeted, checked off the checkpoint pages and chatted to the racers, the rest of us listened… learned… and were too damned scared to speak in case we were accused of helping them.
We had their drop bags full of supplies out ready for them to dive into — race rules allowed that much.
And dive they did for food, drink, clean clothes and the all-important dry shoes and socks. These three were on a high: the first competitors in, and on time to boot.
But less than 30 minutes later, after a quick photo and hugs from their families they were gone.
Now we had three men on lap 2, the clockwise circuit and everyone else still to come in on Lap 1 (the anti-clockwise loop.)
No-one knew when the next racer would appear, but everyone understood that there would be hours and hours of anxious waiting before the final runner made it home.
And so it proved to be.
One by one, in dribs and drabs, the racers arrived. A few came in determined to keep going: Shaun (5), Alistair (26), Mathew (9) and Tom (8) all set off on their second lap. For others, the time spent in the CP8 wormhole proved to be a gamechanger.
When The Expectation Is Failure, How Far Will You Go?
Now each racer knows what it’s like to run The Revenant.
Alistair Shelton, Number 26 set the bar when he tapped the bottle, the only one to complete two whole laps.
Every single person on this epic run is a legend in his/her own right. They are top athletes, used to endurance, suffering and giving it their all. But at the end of this day, the Revenant Ultra Adventure Run has won.
Who will be back to go further next year? Time will tell. For now, everyone’s learned a little more about what it will take before someone, finally, makes it home to drink the whisky.
Scott and Leroy, you’ve created an epic adventure which will become the stuff of legend. Congratulations!
I wanted more than anything to be fit enough, brave enough, (some would say MAD enough) to be a revenant racer. Coming down the mountain, returning to reality, I left a piece of my heart in Revenant country. Next year I’ll be back.
What was YOUR Revenant experience?
It would be great to add your thoughts to this post.