Ange Connell trains for the Routeburn Classic. Photo by
A Wanaka woman will today run the Routeburn leaving only
the smallest of footprints, writes Gina Dempster.
For most people, running the Routeburn would be enough of a
challenge. But Wanaka woman Ange Connell is combining the
physical adventure with a re-use mission.
When she competes in the 2014 Routeburn Classic today,
everything she wears will have been sourced from second-hand
shops, mostly from Wanaka Wastebusters, or made by herself.
Her running outfit does not look that different, until you
look at her feet. Ange runs in home-made ''shoes'', cobbled
together from mountain bike tyres, rabbit fur and cord.
The race-day shoes are version six of a prototype Ange
started developing after she embraced barefoot running at the
start of this year. Prior to that she had been running longer
distances in traditional running shoes, since travelling in
South America in 2012.
''I hadn't done any running since high school, but I was
pretty fit because I'd just done a three-week trek.
"One day I just decided to see how long I could run for, and
I ran for three hours. That just blew me away, and I started
running regularly to explore the small towns, and the
mountains and forests around them.
"When you're running, you're going at such a slow pace, you
can really connect and engage with people, compared to
driving past on a bus.''
Ange completed the Dunedin marathon last year, but had been
struggling with tendonitis and pain in her hips and lower
back during long runs.
She had to use painkillers to get to the finish, and although
she was happy with her time, she could not walk the next day
or run for a couple of months afterwards.
After reading Born to Run, the best-seller by
barefoot-running proselytiser Christopher McDougall, she
tried running in a pair of really basic flat shoes, when she
returned to running just before Christmas.
She noticed improvements in her posture and stability, and
her lower leg, hip and back pain disappeared.
Ange started thinking about the way in which running shoes
and high-tech outdoor clothing acts as a barrier when we go
out into the natural environment.
''We get so obsessed with protecting ourselves from the
environment, rather than adapting to it and being part of
it,'' she says.
When she entered the Routeburn Classic, she decided to take a
personal stand against commercialisation of outdoor
''It's so easy to get intimidated by how much new stuff you
need to compete in something like this. I wanted to show that
you can do an event with minimal impact, on the environment
as well as on your own body.''
Ange found her gloves, hat, tights, running singlet and the
mountain bike tyres for her ''shoes'' at Wanaka Wastebusters.
''Wanaka Wastebusters is an absolute model of facilitating
the extended use of second-hand goods.''
Ange says she loves the sense of community and sharing and
trading you get from buying things second-hand.
''Giving someone else's stuff a new life, I really, really
enjoy that. It's the same kind of feeling I get from running,
that it's exciting and an adventure.''
As part of the recycling crew cleaning up the Rhythm &
Alps festival held in the Cardrona valley at New Year, Ange
was shocked by the amount of waste left behind by the
''Seeing the overwhelming amount of discarded goods - it
really hit home to me that even in `clean green New Zealand',
we have a lot of educating to do about being responsible for
the products we buy new.
''Being a responsible consumer means understanding where a
product has come from, who has made it and under what
conditions, where it will end up and how it ultimately
affects the health of the planet and our own lives.
"It's time we started thinking about the world as a connected
community and considered the amounts of waste floating in the
oceans and piling up in dumps all over the world. We can't
keep pretending that rubbish just disappears when someone
takes our rubbish bag away.''
Making her own shoes was not too much of a leap for a girl
who grew up in a thrifty and creative household in Poolburn.
Ange said her parents were great role models for making do
with what you have and hard work.
''Mum was always getting second-hand things and hand-me-downs
for us, and there was always a sewing machine in the house.
Dad was the most influential for me with the 'do it yourself'
approach, he did so much work on our house and was always
tinkering in the shed.
"I loved the tool shed and because I expressed so much
interest in making things he built me my very own tool box
for Christmas when I was about 7 - with real tools.''
The tyre shoe prototype was made from a bike tyre and velcro,
but later models included rabbit skin and softer cord to
prevent rubbing and rivets to stop the cord pulling out.
Ange says the latest versions are very comfortable and give
the sensation of being barefoot while protecting her feet
from rocks and stones.
''I even wear them to work at the Rippon winery cellar, and I
get a real range of responses. Some people love them, but one
lady asked me if I'd noticed that I was wearing very odd
One advantage is that Ange does not have to worry about her
shoes letting her down during the event, because she can do
any repairs herself.
She carries a needle and thread and a spare piece of bike
tyre in her race-day kit, just in case.
In a world obsessed with high-tech gadgets, Ange says it is
important to take opportunities to put technology down and
connect with the environment.
''The thing that bugs me the most is the disconnection
between people and the environment.
"I cringe when I see people attached to their phones and
cameras and seeing world through technology, instead of
really engaging - touching the grass, smelling the leaves ...
or wriggling their toes in the dirt.
"Simply by taking your shoes off, you can feel more connected
to the world we live in, and move in a softer, simpler way.''
Gina Dempster is a communications adviser at Wanaka
Ange's tips . . . ... for minimal-impact
1. Don't buy anything new - use what you have in your
wardrobe, swap with friends and shop in op-shops.
2. Strengthen your feet by using them - go barefoot when you
can (at home or when walking on grass or sand), do
3. Read Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, or The
Barefoot Running Book, by Jason Robillard.
4. Start with short runs and work up gradually.
5. Run barefoot on grass or sand.
6. Experiment with evenly flat shoes if running on rougher
7. Smile, have fun and play - you have everything you need
right there at your ''feet-tips''.