Ultra athlete Glenn Kelly is not your average runner.
Earlier this month, the Alexandra-based athlete clocked up 330km while competing in Italy’s Tor des Geants, an event he completed in 113 hours.
Kelly was one of 890 people who competed in the race, a non-stop trail run covering the entire region of Aosta, Italy, from September 9-15.
He finished in 91st place.
“It was an incredible experience to do one of the biggest ultra [events] on Earth.”
“The elevation just seemed to happen. I knew it was there; there was nothing I could do about it. Every step was a step home.” – Runner Glenn Kelly
Training for the event was no mean feat.
Kelly trained for eight months leading up to the race, with the aim of improving his ability to run long distances while also building up stamina.
“To me, the most important thing was the elevation, so I would try to do between 4000 to 8000 vertical metres every week for eight months. That’s a lot of time in the dark by yourself, especially in winter.”
He used the Old Man Range and Cairnmuirs as a training ground during the week and Queenstown and Wanaka at weekends, averaging about 120km a week.
The elevation was a challenge but the heat was one of the biggest hurdles, he said.
“The first two days were ridiculous. It was maybe 35degC, so that caused me a lot of problems, but I managed to get through.”
Elevation, as it turned out, was a lesser challenge.
“The elevation just seemed to happen. I knew it was there; there was nothing I could do about it. Every step was a step home.”
For much of the race, competitors were supported by locals who lined the streets to celebrate.
“The atmosphere was like nothing I could imagine.
“Imagine staunch All Blacks supporters, but it was all related to running. It was really quite cool – they didn’t care if you were the first or the last, just the fact you were out there doing it. I was amazed.”
Kelly was the first competitor from Oceania to cross the finish line, securing himself a place on the podium.
That result meant standing next to the event’s most elite for a photo opportunity.
“It’s a bit like a local paddock racer somehow getting into a Formula 1 stage [in car racing], but I will take it,” he said.