On January 18th, 2019, a field of 21 runners set out on the inaugural running of The Revenant, a New Zealand race in the vein of North America’s Barkley’s Marathons, which bills itself as “an unsupported individual or two person team Ultra Adventure Run.”
Navigated perfectly, the course runs 190km over four laps, with 16,000m of vertical ascent, but unmarked courses, unmanned checkpoints, and a ban on GPS navigation make a perfect lap far from a given.
After race directors Leroy DeBeer and Scott Worthington set the tone by performing a haka that Tim Riwhi wrote specifically for the event, runners set off into the early morning dark. Heavy cloud cover and a low rolling fog made for slow progress over the difficult bush terrain even as the sun began to rise. Working their way through a particularly difficult passage near the 8th checkpoint took some runners over 6 hours on the first lap, and at least three runners withdrew from the race without ever making it out.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, three New Zealand locals, Tim Sutton, Angus Watson, and Ian Evans reached the end of the lap first, after more than 14 hours on the trail. Shaun Collins, Mathew Jeans, Tom Reynolds, and Alistair Shelton soon joined them round out the short list of runners who embarked on the second lap.
Eventually, Ian Evans made it furthest into the course, nearly completing the lap two under the 30-hour cutoff in good physical condition. He chose to withdraw minutes from the end of the lap because he had lost his map. No other runner made a serious challenge at beating the cutoff, and no runners started the 3rd lap at all.
Tapping the Whiskey
A local New Zealand legend holds that a whiskey bottle has always been hidden at Welcome Rock, to help out travelers, adventurers, and miners in a cold and exposed locations.
Photo credit: Revenant
To honor the tradition, the race organizers procured a sealed bottle of Welcome Rock Whisky, labeled specially for the Revenant, which sat, sealed, on the check-in table at the starting area throughout the race. As runners resigned, timed out, or were disqualified, each was expected to tap the bottle to officially signal their withdrawal from the race.
The honor of opening the whiskey would have gone to the winner, but since all 21 participants tapped the bottle in 2019, it remains sealed for at least another year.
If you want to take your own shot at opening the bottle, keep an eye on The Revenant’s official web page for updates on the 2020 edition.