Record tumbles at 15th annual Routeburn Classic

Routeburn Classic top male and record-breaker Jack Beaumont at the finish line. PHOTO:

The fact he had never walked – let alone run – New Zealand's world-famous Routeburn Track didn't deter Southland's mountain-running champ Jack Beaumont from blitzing the field in the Routeburn Classic Adventure Run last weekend.

The 19-year-old from Winton not only became the youngest ever winner of the race, but he did so in two hours 37 minutes 51 seconds, shaving an astounding six minutes off the previous record held by Welshman Hywel Dinnick. 

Mr Beaumont, who started mountain running just two years ago and recently won the New Zealand mountain running championships and the 3000m steeplechase title, said the 32km race was the ultimate trail race and "just right" for him. 

"I'd planned to do a training run on the track but didn't get around to it," he said. 

"It's the most amazing race I've ever done, with perfect amounts of everything from uphill, technical sections and flat track, and you couldn't have got a better day for it."

First place women's runner Cecilia Flori from Italy, currently living in Hamilton, added to her 'outsider but one to watch' status with her win in 3:25:30. 

In February this year the 36-year-old took pundits by surprise after coming third in the Tarawera Ultramarathon, where she revealed that she only took up running two-and-a-half years ago. 

Not anticipating she would be fast enough to win the Routeburn Classic over its much shorter distance, she said she was "astounded" to have taken out top spot.

So sure was she that she wouldn't win, she planned to run (and did 40km) of the Kepler Track the day after the Routeburn Classic because she "just wanted to run". 

"I had to stop a few times to look at the waterfall and the lake because it was so beautiful, then I picked up the pace to take second place. I saw the front female runner to about the 4km mark so I really just went for it.

"That was really the most beautiful race I've ever run."

Organiser Evan McWhirter said runners had had the complete opposite experience to last year when heavy rain and snow forced postponement of the race by a day. 

"This was a bluebird day and I love it when a perfect plan comes together," he said. 

As with all of the Routeburn Classic events, there was a 'theme' for the day – this year's being 'the adventure fiesta'.

"All athletes received colourful rainbow festive hair in their race packs and a performance by 'The Muppets' at the race briefing in Te Anau got them into party mode," Mr McWhirter said.

"We always place runners in categories and this year's front runners were in the Muppets category just so at the end of the race we could say 'who was the fastest Muppet'."

At the post-event medal presentation, 10 five-year medals were handed out as well as the Decade Club Perseverance Cup and the first females joined that club – Korina Somerville from Winton, who won the womens' legends category, and Sally Nicholl from Dunedin, who placed third.

First female in the 2017 Routeburn Classic Cecilia Flori looking comfortable on her way to the finish line. PHOTO:


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