Northburn Half Marathon Mountain Run.


The start. Yes OK I did capture a few photos ;) Image by Paul Petch.

We go way back. Northburn is such a treat. I am in love with this region, people and vibe of a truly wild NZ experience. This race holds a special place in my heart with it being one of my first events to shoot as a photographer back in 2012. I’ve watched it every year since as the pure GRIT unfolds. This year I ran the half marathon mountain run.

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Part of me changed that weekend back in 2012 while photographing such an epic event, and the true to life participants as they battled themselves through hell and back. 160km is not an easy task on a good day- but this region is known for its relentless and brutal winds, snow, rain and terrain. Friends of mine have gone back year after year to beat the distance – some win- most loose. Amongst the cold icy winds, rocky loose moon like terrain, and groundhog like lonely loops is a beauty at the Northburn mountains. This reality got under my skin ‘back in the day‘ and couldn’t shake it. In some respects with trail running becoming the new craze, the latest ‘corporate team building’ sell, and PC accessibility being key- the NB100 is simply old school. Simply refreshingly hard and ‘very South’. A true mountain race, with an amazing bunch of race directors and volunteers to boot. It just feels right.

After leaving inspired in 2012 I promised myself that i’d be back. Now based in Christchurch once again, this year was a perfect time to go get involved. No camera’s this time though- on foot as a runner. Feeling a little lost post move back home to the South, I needed some focus. It had only 3 weeks since I had come back to Auckland post 7 week road trip where I was feeling in great shape – to see it nose dive. My motivation was ZERO after being in the mountains for so many weeks and I was feeling lazy.

Logged into the event booking page, with my card info at hand, my finger hovered over the 21km or 50km mountain run. I was sensible and the half won out (this year), and my first mountain running ‘event’ since my third Kepler in 2013 was officially ‘a goer’ Shit… now I had to get back out on the dirt and do some miles!

Travelling down on the day before was a good plan. Sleeping in the van makes life so much easier for these adventures too- and on arrival the low key vibe of the event remained. I was there to run not shoot so kept myself to myself for most of the weekend and up early, witnessed the 160KM, 100KM and 50KM runners heading in to the mountains. It was a barmy morning. It was warm for Northburn standards without a wisp of wind. Everyone was confused :) The half marathon runners were off at 8am into some glorious light and the good calm weather held out for the whole event. This can only mean that next year will be HELL :D

Barmy. Good light. Mountains calling. Captured on iPhone 7+ by Paul Petch.

The run was steep and loose for most of it. Up and down. In between was extremely runnable on everything from goat trails to single an double track. With a bit of on knee scrambling linking up the second part of the distance it was a really great course. I set into a good pace and aside from the ups where I attempted (yes struggled) I ran the full distance. I felt really strong on the descents and felt super composed. With this confidence and my average pace was reasonable overall. Buzzy as. I had a blast. Like so many other runners I was in my trusty Altra Running Lone Peaks– that never slipped or missed a beat and super comfy over the gruelling terrain. (I’m kind obsessed with these shoes btw!).

1000M Vert over 23KM. YOU PAID FOR THIS. Captured on iPhone 7+ by Paul Petch.

I cant speak highly enough of the Northburn, the crew, and the organisation. The region is stunning, trails challenging and the STOKE high. Next year if all goes to plan i’m aiming to up the distance with friends. Regardless, i’ll be there to scratch the Northburn itch again. Thanks Terry!

Check out the event over at and more by Highland Events here.

Paul Petch
Director of Good People Run, pro photographer, tutor and a recovering 'runaholic'. Based in Auckland City, my work is at
Paul Petch

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