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Tarawera Miler 2024: Susan Clare’s experience

By Susan Clare

When I joined WMC it was with the idea of running 1 marathon, I never imagined I would be running four marathons…all in one go!

I signed up to do the Tarawera Miler after the 50k event last year. It was a big jump to go from 50k to 162.5k but once the thought had entered my mind I couldn’t shake it off!

I joined Squadrun training who reassured me that running 100 miles was attainable and wrote me a training programme that I dutifully followed in the hope that it would see me through.

I also enlisted a support team including Karen Leeman, Persephone and Alicia who I knew would help me get to the finish line as pacers and support crew.

I put the hours of training in which included some fantastic highlights – running the 82km Timber Trail and the WUU2K run as well as the Blue Lake Challenge and once through the night. So I felt pretty prepared for the race when the day finally arrived.

It was amazing to be standing on the start line in Kawarau at 4am in the middle of a field, a mixture of excitement, nervousness and trepidation running through my veins. Then the countdown from 10 and we were off!

I took it slowly and followed my plan, to break the race down into bitesize chunks. Each aid station was between 10 and 20km and I just thought about getting to the next point. On the way, I chatted to runners from around the world and took in the beauty of the Tarawera trails.

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My support crew were waiting for me at 65km. It was so emotional coming into that aid station with all the supporters cheering the runners on and knowing I would see Karen, Persephone and Alcia for the first time. And what a welcome! It was like being reunited with long lost family and they took care of me – changed my clothes, my drinks, checked for blisters and fed and reassured me before sending me on my way.

There was a flat section after Rerewhakaaitu followed by a boat ride and then hills and more hills! It was a tough part of the trail but I knew that I would see my support crew again at Buried Village, 88km into the race and once more they were there to greet and look after me.

Then I was on my own again into the first part of the night. I was now 100km in and it was getting dark. I followed my game plan – warm clothes, poles, music and set off into the night, knowing that I would pick up my first pacer, Persephone, at 114km.

I walked most of the Western Okataina Walkway (sometimes referred to as Hell!) It was a long stretch but I knew that all I had to do was get there and then I would be running with a friend. By that point many people were close to collapse and were dropping like flies but I always felt pretty strong. The night was long at times but hallucinations, falling asleep standing up, and throwing up all seemed to escape me.

And now I had Persephone to run with it was great fun! We chatted about Married at First Sight, played silly games, walked for 20 seconds and ran for 60 and just kept putting one foot in front of the other until the sun came up over Blue Lake and Persephone swapped out with Karen who became my pacer and we repeated the games, the laughs and the joys of running with friends who I will never forget.

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Running was more walking by this point. I was sore and tired there was not long to go and I knew by now that I would get to the finish line. One more gnarly hill to climb over to the Redwoods and then the final stretch along the sulphur flats where all of my support crew could join.

And then the last dash down the finishing chute with Karen by my side. We ran the last 100 metres, called home by Ali from Squadrun and with Annie waiting at the finish line. Home in 30 hours and 34 minutes!

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Once back, I was taken to the recovery tent and to get my treasured pounamu which is given to all miler finishers as a sign of their strength and courage.

In the last few years I have needed so much strength and courage and the miler was a manifestation of my ability to dig deep and to keep pushing on in the face of adversity.

In addition, it demonstrated that true friends make rough journeys easier to traverse. Persephone, Karen and Alicia were the real heroes on my journey. Partly I joined the clinic all those years ago to make friends, and what amazing friends I have made. Friends that journey with you night and day, through thick and thin and that are by your side to the end!

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