Running at night is better, in some ways, than running during the day. It’s an illusion, explains Louise Ward, but it feels like you cover more distance when it’s dark. Plus, you’re alone in the forest, with your headtorch, and glow worms, and hedgehogs. 

And if you feel like chucking it in you know that within kilometres there’ll be another aid station with people cheering for you, and feeding you marmite sandwiches on thin white bread.

Ward makes it sound like a picnic, but the Tarawera Ultra Marathon she ran last weekend is no walk in the park. It’s 102.3 kilometres of up, up, up with some downs thrown in for good measure.

Ward ran it in 19 hours. 

“I’ve always been interested in seeing what I am capable of,” she says. “Life is short and if I want to do things then I’ll do them now, not wait.”

Ward says she doesn’t follow a training regime. She keeps it simple, knowing she needs to be able to stay on her feet and moving for 20 hours straight, and needs to fuel the machine that is her body. Where other athletes follow restrictive diets, Ward eats what she’s given (as long as it’s vegetarian). Honey sandwiches, oranges, watermelon, chippies, gummy airplanes are all on offer at the many aid stations along the way.

Tarawera Ultra Marathon also includes 21km, 50km and 160km distances (known as the ‘Miler’ as it’s 100 miles long). For Ward, the next challenge is the Hawke’s Bay Marathon and “gentler trail runs”. Although she’s told friends and family never to let her take on an ultra again, she knows she’s hooked and will be up for it next year.

Being our resident bibliophile Louise Ward, for running inspiration, recommends: Born to Run and Running with Sherman by Christopher McDougall, and The Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn. 

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