Crazyman Clocks Up A Quarter Century
Crazyman Clocks Up A Quarter Century
Almost 400 endurance junkies from all ends of New Zealand are headed for Wellington this weekend for the 25th anniversary of the region’s premier multisport event, the Hutt City Crazyman.
In the 25 years since the Crazyman first appeared on the national multisport scene, life as we know it has altered, changed and developed faster and further perhaps than at any other part of history. Computers, recreation, education, fashion, crime, careers, real estate... Life now hardly resembles what it was in 1991. The Hutt City Crazyman, however, has managed to stay true to the concept that kicked it off two and half decades ago.
Scheduled this year for Sunday 3rd May, the epic kayak, mountain bike and trail running tour of the region’s iconic harbour and hills is Wellington’s longest running multisport event. Established in 1991, the inspiration came from a group of local enthusiasts who had done the Coast to Coast and decided Wellington needed something similar.
This was a familiar theme in multisport’s early years. Races like the Mountain to Sea, the North Island Coast to Coast, the Head to Head, the Akitio Challenge and Otago Gold Rush were all inspired by the South Island’s famous Coast to Coast event and thrived for a while only to disappear for varying reasons. The Crazyman was no different, except it didn’t disappear and today it is one of only a handful of events around the country that have been multisport mainstays for a quarter century or more.
While today’s Crazyman – a 13k kayak, 30k mountain bike and 13k trail run - is vastly different from the original two-day race, the concept behind the challenge has stayed true. The Crazyman remains a challenging yet achievable tour of Wellington’s icon outdoor elements – the harbour, hills and Hutt River – and almost 400 starters are expected for Sunday’s 25th event.
As you’d expect of an event that grew up with the sport, the Crazyman Hall of Fame is a whose-who of the sport. Coast to Coast legends Steve Gurney, Kristina Anglem, Jill Westenra, Emily Miazga, Richard and Elina Ussher, Fleur Pawsey, Gordon Walker and Jesse Simson all cut their teeth at the Crazyman.
Gurney won the event in 1994, but only narrowly from local legends Dave Abbott and Brian Sanders, who won the Coast to Coast way back in 1985. A year earlier another legend-to-come, 17 year old Kristina Strode-Penny (later Anglem), had triumphed in her very first multisport race and went on to world titles in both multisport and adventure racing.
The original 1991 race was won by local Lower Hutt endurance legend, Paul Coles, who like Sanders had been around since multisports beginning at the early Coast to Coast’s. Fittingly, Coles returned five years ago for the 20th anniversary event and won the 50-plus category.
In 1998 Lower Hutt’s own world mountain running champion, Jonathan Wyatt, won his first and only foray into multisport, beating Coast to Coast top-10 finishers Glenn Muirhead and Michael Jacques. Similarly the women’s race in 1997 had been a battle between Susy Wood and Penny Edwards, both of whom would go on to represent New Zealand and Wales as cyclists at the Commonwealth Games.
In the first 10 years the Crazyman was a two-day, 150k coast to coast come wharf to wharf come harbour to harbour concept from Lower Hutt across the region to Porirua. Steve Gurney said it was tougher than the Coast to Coast, but with two city councils, two harbour boards, two Police permissions, Transit New Zealand, the Regional Council, 100 volunteers, increasingly dangerous roads and expensive safety and concession issues, organising it was even tougher.
By 2000 the Crazyman had become unsustainable, so organisers cut the second day and with support from Hutt City Council relaunched the event as a savage but scenic tour highlighting the Hutt Valley’s iconic outdoor locations.
Today the Hutt City Crazyman opens with a 13k kayak from Eastbourne’s Days Bay, north along Wellington Harbour’s eastern coastline and Petone Foreshore to finish on the Hutt River. Kayaks are swapped for mountain bikes for a 30k ride north up the Hutt River Trail to Dry Creek where they head west into Belmont Regional Park, riding over the 442m high Boulder Hill past World War II ammunition bunkers to the historic Woolshed behind Maungarakei. Then it’s into running shoes for the final 13k trail run around Belmont Trig, down Korokoro Stream and along Petone Foreshore to finish at the iconic Petone Wharf.
This year’s 25th anniversary Hutt City Crazyman promises to be a hum-dinger. Defending women’s champion Elina Ussher (Nels) is searching for her fifth Crazyman win. But talented up and comers Ailsa Rollinson (Wanaka), Fiona Dowling (Alex) and Lizzy Bunckenberg (Wgtn) will keep her honest. Bunckenberg recently scored her first multisport win at the Porirua Grand Traverse.
Among men, Crazyman first-timer Trevor Voyce is the favourite. Voyce is one of the unsung heroes of Nelson’s multisport mafia; having finished 2rd, 3rd, 5th, 5th and 6th at the Coast to Coast, the 34 year old is one of the best athletes never to win the world title race.
Voyce, however, will be wary of fellow Nelsonian Dan Busch, who has twice won the Coast to Coast team title, and Hastings Luke Osborne, who has been 7th at Coast to Coast and has experience on the tough Crazyman course after winning in 2012.
First and foremost, however, the Crazyman is a community event embracing all ages, abilities and backgrounds from school kids, house wives and corporate professionals to tradesmen and retirees – some of them experienced endurance athletes, some of them relative rookies looking for a life challenge.
In 2012 Lower Hutt’s John Wood became the eldest ever finisher at age 74. Fifteen years earlier he had support crewed his teenage daughter Susy to a win in the women’s race. This year participants range between 14 year old Cam Jones (Nels) and 64 year Peter Sutton (Wgtn). Other highlights include original race director Dave Rudge returning to race. Similarly, race director Michael Jacques has been at all 25 editions of the Crazyman either racing, support crewing or organising.
After this year’s 25th anniversary event almost 7500 people will have experienced everything that is the Hutt City Crazyman. And rather than being crazy, they’ll all tell you that you’d be crazy to miss it.