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The Runners of Rapa Nui / Men’s Running

[:en]In the May issue of Men’s Running there’s a story of some of the planet’s remotest people.

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…So remote in fact that for 500 years they thought they were the only people left on Earth.

Yet regardless of outside influence, the runners of Rapa Nui take their sport incredibly seriously. They compete in the traditional hami loincloth and in some events carry a 20kg load of bananas, as featured below in the Hanga Vare Vare relay race. Iconically, the finish line to this race was at the foot of one of the island’s distinctive moai statues – Ahu Riata.

The article and photos were written during a three week stay on the island during the Tapati festival: A cultural celebration of traditional sport, handicraft, dance, drama and music. Publications also at BBC Travel (slow to load) and Picture of The Day at The Guardian.

Rapa Nui oringial from Men's running trimmed

 [:es]In the current issue (May, 2016) of Men’s Running there’s a story about one of the world’s remotest people.

Runners of Rapa Nui singular with press

…So remote in fact that for 500 years they thought they were the only people left on Earth.

Yet regardless of outside influence, the runners of Rapa Nui take their sport incredibly seriously. They compete in the traditional hami loincloth and in some events carry a 20kg load of bananas, as featured below in the Hanga Vare Vare relay race. Iconically, the finish line to this race was at the foot of one of the island’s distinctive moai statues – Ahu Riata.

The article and photos were written during a three week stay on the island for the Tapati festival: A cultural celebration of traditional sport, handicraft, dance, drama and music. Publications also at BBC Travel (slow to load) and Picture of The Day at The Guardian.

Men's Running - The Runners of Rapa Nui -[:]

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The story behind the cover shot / Ultra magazine

Front cover Ultra mag

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Larking around with issue 2 of Ultra on day 4 of our recce. Kindly supplied by Ultra ed. Andy Nuttall

When you get your copy of the superlative independent UK running magazine, Ultra (issue 4) – you’ll read how we fastpacked a four day recce of the circuit before attempting the run. Torres del Paine was named the 8th Wonder of The World in 2013 and we wanted to experience it in all its mystery and majesty before attempting to push rudely round in just one day.

On the second day of the fastpack, we reached the top of the John Gardner pass – the highest point of the trek that usually takes 8 days to complete. Here we had our first view down to Glacier Grey – a leviathan of ice that runs hundreds of miles, swallowing mountains in its path. The temperature hovered around zero, and for about the fifth time that day I asked James:

“Mate, whip off your trousers and we’ll get a shot in our running shorts!”

“You can F*** right off if you think I’m stripping off for you here…”

There would be no time on the run to stop here, and I certainly wouldn’t be carrying any decent camera gear during the attempt. It was now or never.

Just at that moment, a porter emerged on the pass. I set the camera to continuous shooting mode, wacked up the F-Stop to pull the glacier in and got the poor chap squatting at an angle where the composition was right. We dropped our heavy rucksacks, grabbed the vests we would use for the 1 day push and started jogging with that comically high knee style that can help imply movement in running shots. The porter clearly thought we were lunatics – but fired away.

So, no man leaning out of a helicopter in a harness – just a couple of guys trying to share the adventure they were about to set out on – round one of the most spectacular trails on Earth.

And when we really did begin, it was 2am Patagonia time. Out there, on those moonlit trails, there was an even more shocking surprise than that great glacier – It was waiting for us, silently in the dark….

Here’s where you can read more.matt full circle (1)

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A crazy sport created by isolation / BBC Travel

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Rapa Nui people believed for 500 years they were the only people left on Earth.

The BBC were interested in how the Rapa Nui’s February festival of Tapati expresses the character and story of these remote island people. I spent three weeks on Easter island. This article for BBC Travel explores what I found.

Read Article (International)               

Read Article (UK Version – slow to load)

 

 

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Picture of the Day / the Guardian

I snapped this shot on the third day of the Tapati festival on Easter Island. It was published in The Guardian online earlier this month. Click to see more at The Guardian

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Running the “O” loop at the 8th Natural Wonder of the World

[:en]Last Wednesday at 2:06 am under a full moon James Donald and I set out on the 8day trek at Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia. Our plane was leaving in just 52 hours. We hoped to run it in one continuous push, carrying all our own equipment and be back at the Camping Torres in time for a beer before the store shut…

In the next few weeks and months there will be photos and words published about the trip.

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Sneak Preview: Teetering over the suspension bridge above Glacier Grey at km60. At this point we had another 40km and 7 hours of running left to cover. We had only 6 remaining energy gels between us…

Thanks to the support from my friend Rene Castel at Cabra del Monte energy bars, and Andy Nuttall at Ultra Magazine

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Running the 100km Patagonia O loop in 17hours / Ultra

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James and Me Idiots (1)On a miserable winter’s morning in Marshfield, England at around 10am in early 2014 our friendship was sealed.

We’d been running through driving rain and sodden trails since before dawn. Soaked to the skin, we’d been flexing our fingers back and forth to keep the circulation going since the first climb by moonlight onto Little Solsbury Hill. On reaching Marshfield High Street we were at the furthest outpost of our very long run.

Just then a delivery van came splashing down the deserted street, windscreen wipers raging, parking just in front of us. A small man lowered a misted window,  and with a wide grin spoke but one word:

Idiots

Taken aback at first; we soon laughed it off. Over the next three hours back to Bath Spa we tossed the phrase between ourselves. We discovered it was a generous fit for many situations in times past or escapades planned when the logic seems absent, but the experience so fulfilling.

In six days’ time my friend James will arrive here in Chile from the UK.

We planned the trip in February over Skype. Back then the South American summer was in full rage and it was more than 34°C on the cactus studded trails near my home at foot of the Andes. James punched in his passport details online then waited for his winter to warm up, spring to come and go and summer run its course.

Here in South America it’s getting warmer again now: the clouds are lifting from the summits; the bean plants are pushing through the soil of our vegetable patch once more and it’s time to go on an adventure…

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Photo © Graciela Zanitti | iloverunn.com.ar

At the very bottom of the South American continent – where the land draws thin, and the fiords wind two hundred mile tendrils into the mountains – that’s where they found Patagonia. There is no other land further south on the planet besides Antarctica. Adventurous travellers have long since travelled here – to the end of the world – to tackle the infamous Torres del Paine trek. There are swooping condors, glaciers the size of European countries and the black monolith towers after which the park is named. The 77mile hike is a full loop of the TDP massif and has over 6,000m of elevation gain. It usually takes 8-10 days. This November, James and I are going to give it a crack – hoping to run it all in one push.

Both now in our thirties, the trip can’t be filed away as a Gap Year adventure nor as a mid life crisis. It is just a frivolous trip where two friends have cleaved out some time from seemingly hectic lives to have a long run together in the mountains. And when we look back on it one day – we’ll hope we can we say we were idiots.

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