Expedition Watch: Jez Bragg Runs Across New Zealand

Man's best friend. Photo:

In addition to the 50 sunsets and sunrises that ultrarunner Jez Bragg plans to take in while trying to run 2,000 miles across New Zealand's newest cross-country trail in the fastest time ever, there are less dramatic sites that require more of his attention. For example, there are seven sheep for every person in New Zealand, which means a lot of herding dogs. On day 18, at 3:30 p.m., Bragg was in the middle of a long run when he ran into a cowboy with five such dogs. The chance meeting led him to refocus his attention on the trail beneath him. "Five dogs means high statistical probability of dog poo," read a post on his blog, written from the perspective of his shoes, which had already trudged over more than 600 miles of terrain. "I am running almost 100km today, having my back pressed into dog poo would be the last straw."

Here's a bit more on Bragg's 50-day planned journey, in case you'd like to follow along.

WHAT: Bragg is in the middle of a tip-to-toe crossing of New Zealand, from Cape Reinga at the top of the North Island to Bluff at the bottom of the South Island. Bragg is averaging between 35 to 50 miles of running a day, spending the majority of his time on the 1,898-mile-long Te Araroa Trail, which opened in December 2011 and cuts through the country. He is also paddling a kayak across sections of the route, including the Whanganui River, Cook Strait, and Lake Wakatipu.

WHO: The 31-year-old ultrarunner won the 101-mile Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in 2010 and stood on the podium at the 2012 Western States 100.

WHEN: Bragg began the expedition on December 11 and is on track to complete the crossing in his set goal of 50 days. His last update came on January 7, after his first run on the South Island, when he arrived in Pelorus after a 48-mile jaunt from Camp Bay. He is not the first person to run the full length of the trail. On December 17, less than a week after Bragg set off, 34-year-old Australian Richard Bowles completed the trail in 62 days. Still, Bragg is pushing to be the fastest man on the route. "He's got amazing will, drive, and motivation to be simply crushing long days for weeks on end ... all alone out there," said ultrarunner Mike Wolfe, who had planned to join Bragg on the South Island before an injury altered his plans. "I know in the world of ultrarunners there's not many folks out there that could do what he's doing right now."

WHY: “Running this trail has been a dream of mine for several years and I have followed its progress with great interest," he wrote on The North Face blog. "For me, ultrarunning is all about this type of adventure; the opportunity to explore remote and challenging landscapes in a very raw and pure way. There is no better way to explore a country like New Zealand with such outstanding natural beauty than to do it by foot. The work that has gone into getting this trail together to its eventual opening is simply mind-boggling. It will be a great honor to be one of the first to run it and hopefully showcase everything the country and the trail has to offer. It will truly be an adventure of a lifetime.”

FOLLOW ALONG:, @jezbragg

SPONSORS: The North Face

—Joe Spring

Filed To: Running
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