Ultra special finish for Chris

Chris Atkinson at the Chamonix finish line after completing a gruelling 172km run in 42 hours.

After finishing the race of his life in France on Sunday night Cambridge time, Chris Atkinson told his wife Dee that it ranked as the hardest thing he had ever done, and any subsequent trail race would likely feel easy by comparison.

The 51-year-old from Cambridge completed the world Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc mountain ultramarathon race, coming in after running 172km with 10,000m of elevation in a punishing 42 hours.

The event is regarded as the most competitive and difficult trail ultramarathon in the world.  From the time it started in 2003, it has been run each year around this time through France, Italy and Switzerland, following the route of the Tour du Mont Blanc.  The race generally attracts more than 2500 starters and is one of several during a week-long festival based around Chamonix, France.  It is in Chamonix that the race starts and ends, circumnavigating France’s highest peak, Mont Blanc.

Chris has done most of his training in Rotorua and at Maungatautari.

Proud wife Dee Atkinson, who is outreach librarian with Waipā District Council and a member of the Cambridge Athletic and Harrier Club, said the only starting point through which to be accepted for the event is via qualifying races.  For those, Chris completed the Tarawera and Ultra Trail Australia races.

After that, acceptance is through a ballot system. “He’s been trying for four years to get in,” she said.

Chris told Dee he couldn’t have done it without the support of colleague Jo Munn, who ran another event earlier in the week, and Lauren Shelley from Cambridge Harriers, who took leave after being in Europe as part of her physio position with High Performance Sport New Zealand.  Both women followed Chris for the entire race.

Dee, who takes women’s running groups in Cambridge twice a week, said she hopes to persuade Chris to do a presentation on his experience as part of the Get Active events she runs through October and November in her role as outreach librarian.

She said Chris wasn’t a member of harriers this year because of all the trail running he has been doing, but he has been involved with the club for the past five years.

Chris is due back in town next week.

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