Ul­tra marathon ef­fort by Waipara teen


YouNorth Can­ter­bury run­ner Yonni Kepes has be­come the youngest known New Zealan­der to com­plete a 100 mile ul­tra marathon af­ter an enor­mous ef­fort in Hanmer Springs two weeks ago.

Kepes, who took up run­ning at 10 and ran his first marathon at just 14, said while he knew long dis­tance run­ning was not ev­ery­one’s idea of fun, he en­joyed the idea of chal­leng­ing him­self phys­i­cally and men­tally.

He be­gan se­ri­ous long dis­tances at 15, and now at 18 he has ticked off what most peo­ple would not even con­tem­plate, the 100 mile (161km) race. In­cred­i­bly he man­ages to jug­gle school life, vol­un­teer fire­fight­ing and his work as youth coun­cil chair­man, yet still find time to train 15 to 20 hours a week.

He partly has his dad, Ben Kepes, to blame for get­ting him into the sport — Kepes se­nior hav­ing nu­mer­ous ul­tra events un­der his belt — but it is his own de­ter­mi­na­tion that has got him to the level he is at now.

‘‘I just re­ally like the idea of chal­leng­ing the sta­tus quo as well as test­ing my body,’’ Kepes said. ‘‘I am in that for­tu­nate po­si­tion now that I have grad­u­ally built up my en­durance so my body is ac­cus­tomed to the dis­tances, to where a marathon becomes a train­ing run.’’

While he was ini­tially dis­ap­pointed in his time of 29 hours and nine min­utes (he had hoped to com­plete it in 24 hours), he said he was ‘‘su­per stoked’’ in the end to have crossed the fin­ish line. A chest in­fec­tion in the week prior to the race had not helped, he said, but he was pleased his body and mind both got him over the line.

‘‘You need that abil­ity to re­ally get to the point where it is all men­tal.You can put one foot in front of the other but your brain is telling you to give up.

‘‘I had lows and highs like that every three to four hours.’’

Run­ning through the night was a par­tic­u­lar test of men­tal for­ti­tude, but his sup­port crew,whom he cred­its with 50 per cent of the vic­tory, kept him go­ing.

The Hanmer run was a good foray into 100 mile event­ing, Kepes said, be­cause the 10km lap course was laid out in a fig­ure of eight, mean­ing he passed the aid sta­tion twice a lap and there­fore didn’t have to worry about car­ry­ing gear.

‘‘I must ad­mit by the end I was count­ing the bridges, al­most count­ing in­di­vid­ual trees, you get to the point where you are sort of done with the course.

‘‘Maybe next time I’ll do an A to B course to give my­self more of a chal­lenge.’’

And yes, there will be a next time. Far from be­ing put off, Kepes hopes to venture over­seas next year when he fin­ishes school to check out big events like the Mont Blanc Ul­tra Trail in Switzer­land, which he agrees would be ‘‘stupid but stun­ning’’.


Yonni Kepes, sec­ond left, has be­come the youngest New Zealan­der to com­plete a 100 mile ul­tra­ma­rathon af­ter he com­pleted the Hanmer Old For­est Ul­tra­ma­rathon.

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