Nearly ready, set, go for A2O Ultra

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Preparations for the inaugural Alps 2 Ocean Ultra run have nearly crossed the finish line.

The race along the 301km cycle trail starts on February 23.

Competitors will arrive two days before that for registration, a social gathering and a trip to the base of Aoraki Mt Cook.

The event, the first staged ultra run in New Zealand, was the brainchild of organiser Mike Sandri.

Mr Sandri said setting up the run had been a “massive” job that could not have been done without help.

Thirty volunteers jumped on board with Mr Sandri’s idea.

“We just wouldn’t run it without them,” he said.

The idea of hosting an ultra run came up after Mr Sandri competed in the Grand to Grand Ultra, at the Grand Canyon in the United States.

“A lot of people over there said to me: ‘Why isn’t there an ultra stage running race here in New Zealand?”‘

The event took between 12 and 14 months to organise.

Most of the preparation for it was in hand, but it had not been an easy task.

“It’s a logistical nightmare, to be perfectly honest,” Mr Sandri said.

About 20 tents would be set up along different parts of the trail for runners to rest, recuperate or restock.

The tents would be situated next to the seven lakes the runners would pass on the run.

“You don’t get that in any other race around the world.”

International racers would make up 75% of the field, Mr Sandri said.

Race packs would be given out to runners at the Oamaru Opera House two days before the ultra run.

Mr Sandri said a welcome meal would be held at Portside Restaurant and Bar.

A dinner at the Loan & Merc function centre would officially wrap up the event.

The inaugural ultra run would be the “benchmark” for people to see what they thought of the event.

“I think these runners are going to be blown away by what they see and what we’ve got here.”

A second Alps 2 Ocean Ultra, in 2019, was already attracting interest.

“We’ve got 60-odd for 2019,” Mr Sandri said.