The Alps 2 Ocean Ultra marathon is going out on top.
This year will be the third and final year of the 323km, seven-day event, which starts at Mt Cook on February 23. The course mostly follows the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail to Oamaru.
When race director Michael Sandri started planning for the inaugural stage race in 2018, he had three goals – to make it an enjoyable race, to bring people to Oamaru, and to raise money for the town’s youth.
He feels he has “definitely” achieved those goals.
This year, 132 people from 19 countries have entered the race.
For almost half of them, it would be their second or third Alps 2 Ocean Ultra marathon, he said.
“Which says something about the race, because normally people only do it once and disappear.
“A lot of these ones love the environment that we’ve got, they love the town and the people, [and] the volunteers.”
At the finish line of every stage of the race, Mr Sandri makes it a priority to be there to greet every competitor.
“That’s just a sign of respect; they have come all that way,” he said.
“I’ve gone to races where the race directors haven’t been seen and I think that’s rude.”
It is not just the competitors who have a gruelling week in store for them – more than 40 volunteers will be there to support the runners.
“It’s a massive amount of organising and it’s a lot of reliance on people’s goodwill,” he said.
“We’ve had it good for three years and we will let people go on and do some other stuff they want to do.”
Mr Sandri said that last year he went three or four days without sleep, having to change parts of the track due to bad weather.
“The first year we had to change the track because of hurricane winds and last year was torrential rain.”
But it had all been worth the effort, he said.
“It’s been amazing. It’s a good race because of the culture.”
Around the world, ultra marathons were becoming more condensed and run over a few days rather than a week, he said.
“A lot of races overseas that are bigger than ours are struggling for numbers, and that’s because a lot of people now want to run 200 miles non-stop.”
This year’s course will be the largely the same as last year’s, apart from a “gnarly little bit that they will hate me for”, Mr Sandri said.
The race had an even gender split and attracted a variety of people, he said.
“There are some seriously big people there, and broken people, but they just keep on going.
“There are no egos, that’s what I like about it.”