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.