Trail Run

The LONG PATHWAY

A few weeks after finishing her record-breaking run of the Te Araroa (TA) in January, Lucy Clark could barely run 5km without her legs screaming to stop – not because she was injured, but because her body had nothing more to give after her record 66-day sprint along the 3,000km trail.

“I’m just really, really tired,” Lucy said. “It’s incredible to think that only three weeks ago, I was running 50km – sometimes more – every day. Now my legs don’t have any power. I wake up tired and am ready for bed by lunchtime.”

Before January, there wasn’t a reason why you would have heard of Lucy Clark. But in setting the female fastest-known time, or “FKT”, on New Zealand’s only thru-hike, she has become a trail-running celebrity. Completing the run in 66 days, 7 hours and 8 minutes, she shaved 11 days off the existing record, which was set by New Zealander Mina Holder in 2015.

Lucy has been running for 35 days and clocked 1,747km by the time my partner Mat and I join her on the Queen Charlotte Track on the northernmost tip of New Zealand’s South Island. Our mission is to pace her for 10 days through arguably the toughest sections of trail: the Richmond Alpine Track and Nelson Lakes. We are under no illusions that this is a holiday. For the past few weeks, Lucy’s husband and support crew chief, Tom Wright, has been messaging us with updates and instructions. This run is their life.

Mat and I arrive in the port town of Picton by bus and start scanning the carpark for the bright green campervan. From her first step on the trail, Tom has made sure he and the van are at every conceivable spot for Lucy, providing her with meals, logistical support, massages, a change of shoes (nine pairs of Hoka One One runners), and, most importantly, a bed.

We find Tom inside the van, hunched over his laptop. Camera equipment, Clif Bars, open chip packets and coffee-stained cups are strewn across the table. He spots us and grins broadly, rushing out

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