School fundraiser takes new heights with wind farm trail run

There are three mad women behind Waitetuna School PTA’s end-of-year fundraiser – a trail run that goes through the Te Uku Wind Farm.

PTA chairperson and teacher Jess Otton says no, she’s not one of them – she’s more the type who prefers to man a “sausage team”, and she’s certainly no keen runner.

Waitetuna PTA mums Amy Bateman, Mady Rix-Trott and Lizzie Brown are the mad keen trail runners and the brains behind the 21km trail run that will take like-minded enthusiasts along some of the 28 turbines that make up the wind farm.

“No, we’re not going to have a big school fundraiser this year,” laughs Jess, at the huge undertaking that is already gathering momentum with the creation of websites, finishers’ medals and the seeking of sponsorship to keep costs down.

“Oh well, I will be all right! I don’t have to run it!”

Amy, who works as a police officer in Hamilton, says her, Mady and Lizzie have all done a “bit of trail running” and competed in their first trail marathon last year in Rotorua.

In order to the get some kilometres under their belts for the Tarawera Trail Marathon they got to know the wind farm area quite well, regularly traversing the Wharauroa Plateau as part of their training.

“We thought it was a good concept (for a fundraiser),” says Amy, who has always been quite “fascinated by the wind farm” and how the giant 49-metre-long blades were trucked one by one over the divvy.

The women were in awe of the “incredible power and size” of the turbines and thought others would enjoy the experience too.

“Up there, it’s amazing. You can see the Raglan Harbour, the bar, and you also have views of Mt Pirongia and Karioi, it’s pretty impressive all right.

“When you get to the top its 360, let’s hope for an amazing day. I’ve been up there before in a whiteout and it can be quite cold and miserable.”

The Waitetuna Wind Farm Trail Run will cater for all fitness levels, with three distances  – 21km, 10km and 5km – to compete in for the event. Regardless of experience there will be a trail for everyone, young and old.

“It’s a bit of everything,” says Amy, who mapped out the 21km course with Mady and Julie Ormond, who is also on the PTA.

“My little boy, he is 7, will do the 5km with Dad.”

The 5km and 10km trails can be ran or walked, and are about participation.

“Because we are a PTA we want to attract kids to come out and do it and have a real community feel to the event. We’ll have that on the finish line – get entertainment and have a good vibe.

“The 21km, through the mapping, is pretty gnarly. It will be hard. The elevations are pretty steep in places, more for your trail runner. It will be really important to put in the preparation or you are not going to enjoy it.”

The course includes river crossings and bush track and farm track through the private property of Hamish and Julie Ormond.

“They’re really excited to be involved.”

The inaugural event will be held on Saturday, November 25, two weeks before the 24km Raglan Karioi Trail that traverses the mountain twice.

Amy, who competed in the 10km version of the Raglan Karioi Trail last year, says she sees the wind farm race as a “step up” to the mountain race.

“My experience with Karioi is it is very hard.”

The wind farm 21km trail will have a few really wicked hills in it but the women don’t imagine it will be as hard as running up Mt Karioi twice.

It is hoped that the Waitetuna Wind Farm Trail Run will become a yearly event, with the fundraiser this year going towards the school pool and resurfacing the courts and outdoor areas.

Inger Vos

* For more information see the Waitetuna Wind Farm Trail Run Facebook page or waitetunatrailrun.co.nz. Registration for the event has opened and can be done online.