Lucy Clark is aiming to run the Te Araroa trail in under 70 days – becoming the fastest woman to complete it in the process. The 3,000km track runs the length of NZ and normally takes 5 months to complete! We caught up with her to find out how she’s preparing to run 46km of gnarly terrain, every day.
Tim: So Lucy, prepping to run a track with 9 times the elevation of Everest must be pretty daunting. Have you been running for a while?
Lucy Clark: I was into running in high school, but not that competitively, and about 8 years ago I ran my first marathon, the Paris Marathon. Since then I’ve done 7 marathons, a couple of 50 and 60k races, and a bunch of half marathons. But it’s been in the last couple of years that I’ve got into this trail running thing.
Why the switch to trail running?
Well, we moved away from the city to Bright, in Victoria. My husband and I have lived abroad and in a few cities, but in Melbourne we were spending every weekend driving out to Bright and other spots to go running and mountain biking.
It was like, ‘Hang on, I feel like this balance is a bit off. Why can’t we live where we want to live and occasionally have to travel for work?’ So we flipped it on its head and bought a house out here and just bit the bullet and moved. It’s been awesome.
That’s the best! The founder of We Are Explorers has basically done the same thing. What did work think about you taking 70 days off in a row?
They are pretty cool about it! They’re good, they’re supporting all of it. My boss is fantastic and I think she thinks I’m a little bit crazy, as most people do. That tends to be the first reaction, it’s like, ‘You’re doing what?’ But in saying that, she’s like, ‘You know what, if it’s what you really want to do, go and do it. We don’t want to stand in the way of you doing that.’
And why is it what you really want do go and do? It’s not your first long distance trip is it?
Yeah we did a cycle across the UK. I don’t know if you’ve ever done a longish trip like that, but it was just the best. I can’t explain. I think I love the simplicity of going from A to B, just by the power of your my own legs.
It kind of strips away a lot of the other things that you can get caught up on in everyday life. Everything becomes really simple and you can just enjoy it and be in the moment.
I like the idea of going across a country as well, because it’s significant, and it’s a kind of a big milestone. And then I found that New Zealand has this trail that runs the whole way; I’ve been to New Zealand a couple of times and it’s beautiful.
Then I found out that only a couple of females had done it, and I actually reached out to Mina Holder who holds the current fastest known time (FKT) for it, and she was just like, ‘It’s really tough, but it’s amazing’.
So it’s a bit competitive now. That must appeal to the runner in you.
There’s a risk that, potentially, I may not be able to do it. There’s a risk of failure, which is scary, but also I want to see what I can push myself to do, ’cause I think so much of it just lies in mental strength and being able to push yourself beyond what you think you can.
Also, I don’t want to play the female card but I think it’s… I see other females that are doing all these really cool, awesome, out there things, and it gets me really excited to do that and to think that maybe if I do something like this, maybe it’ll make someone else do something as well, which is really appealing.
It’s pretty cool that the woman with the current FKT is willing to help you.
Yeah! It’s a bit like, ‘Hey, talk to me and tell me what you did, and by the way I want to try and beat your time’. But I think that’s the awesome thing. When Karl Meltzer ran the Appalachian Trail the previous record holder was helping him. I think it’s cool that people support other people to do amazing things, even if it means that it overshadows the amazing thing that you did.
Are you running with anyone?
Hopefully Mina! We’ve also reached out to running clubs and a couple of friends have said they’re keen. I’ll still probably do a lot of running on my own but it’ll be amazing to have the company. There’s only so many podcasts I can listen to before I go crazy.
It’s a supported run right? I can imagine it’s basically impossible to run completely self–supported, but what kind of weight will you be taking on your back?
When the camper van can get to me pretty easily, I’ll just have a light running vest and a litre of water, snacks and waterproofs. For three to four hour stints I’ll have 2-3L of water and more clothes, probably around 4kg, then for some sections with overnight hut stays I’ll have even more, so up to 8kg.
Are you training for that extra weight?
Yeah! I’ve been running up hills with 6kg of canned beans in a backpack.
Turning the beans into a cookup when you’re done?
Actually, what are you going to be eating during the run?
Anything and everything! My priority will be calorie-dense, real food. We’re already taking note of some of the things I crave after a big race, and the majority of the time they’re pretty fat and carb heavy, like ham and cheese croissants!
I’ll also have a steady supply of Clif Bars and Bloks with me on the trail – I use them during training and know they agree with my tummy. I’m going to avoid relying on gels because they aren’t nutritious and there are only so many I can stomach! Having said all of this, I’ll also make sure I still get some fruit and veg in – most likely in my evening meal.
So is the plan to ramp up the training until you’re running back to back marathons?
Yeah, at the moment I’m running around 100km a week, then there’ll be some training long weekends with marathons each day on a mix of terrain. There’s a section that’s 50km along a road, so your body has to be used to all kinds of terrain.
Those long weekends should be fun mini-adventures, I’m pretty excited! It’ll also be a good chance for my husband to practice supporting me, especially with food!
What advice would you have for other people that have a nutty goal like this one?
I’d say, just do it. You’ve just got to bite the bullet and do it. I think if I was to fast forward the clock in 20 years time and I’d never at least tried to do this, I would have regretted it. It may seem super daunting, and could easily go in the too hard basket, but often the things that are most worthwhile are the things that are daunting and really hard to do. Just break it down into little chunks and chip away at it – suddenly it’ll all be planned.
When we did the ride across the UK, we planned it all out, and it took hours. It was super daunting. I remember I was so worried – what if we get hit by a truck? What if we get lost? Then we actually went and did it, and it was totally fine.
That stretched my parameters for what is scary. You know, it’s made that a bit further away. To go and organise something like this isn’t as daunting as it was, because I did that other, smaller trip, and organised that. I think you’ve just got to give it a crack!
Lucy sets off on the 11th of November to begin her epic run, supported by Clif Bar and Bright Brewery. You can read more on adventurouslucy.com and follow her prep at @adventurous_lucy or on Facebook.
Would you run or ride?