Runs ultramarathons 'just for fun'

Californian ultramarathon runner Ray Sanchez does some stretches while Northburn 100 organisers Terry Davis (left), Tom Pinckney and Glen Christiansen prepare Northburn Station for the ultramarathon this weekend. Photo by Sarah Marquet.
Californian ultramarathon runner Ray Sanchez does some stretches while Northburn 100 organisers Terry Davis (left), Tom Pinckney and Glen Christiansen prepare Northburn Station for the ultramarathon this weekend. Photo by Sarah Marquet.

Through searing heat in India and California's Death Valley, through ice and snow in Minnesota and even through hallucinations, Ray Sanchez runs up to 265km in a single race "just for fun".

The 45-year-old Californian ultramarathon runner said the fun of it, and competing against himself rather than the other runners, is what gets him through the gruelling races.

He has only been running ultramarathons for a few years but is already one of the best in the world and believes he is the only one to have completed all 217km races in the Badwater World Cup - through the desert-like Death Valley in California, through the mountains of Brazil and Germany, through the snow in Minnesota and through high altitudes and temperatures in India.

The former Olympic-hopeful boxer is a mechanical engineer by trade and said travelling around the world to races such as these was his "vacation time".

This week he flew to New Zealand to take part in the Northburn 100, a 160km race over Northburn Station near Cromwell, this weekend.

It is the second year the Northburn 100 has been held.

The event offers 50km, 100km and 160km races which have been labelled as "brutal" by last year's competitors.

New Zealand ultramarathon runner Lisa Tamati came up with the idea and joined forces with Northburn Station owner Tom Pinckney, Tourism Cromwell board members Glen Christiansen and Emma McDonald and race director Terry Davis.

Mr Davis said he had run the course about three weeks ago to check it out and had given names such as "the loop of deception", "loop of despair", "death climb" and "Tom you bastard" to sections of the course.

Despite the names, organisers say it will be a fantastic event.

Mr Pinckney said they were expecting 70 runners this year, 18 more than last year, and with the likes of Mr Sanchez coming to race, he hoped interest in the Northburn 100 would grow significantly in years to come.

Racing begins at 6am on Saturday and competitors have 48 hours in which to finish the race.

Last year's winner, Martin Lukes, of Christchurch, completed the full 160km in 25hr 44min.

Mr Sanchez hopes to finish in 20 hours.

He said his advice to fellow competitors and those wanting to get into running was to relax, have fun and look at the stunning scenery.

sarah.marquet@odt.co.nz