Family’s mountain of effort in Raglan Karioi Trail race

The Swann family has become somewhat of an institution when it comes to the Raglan Karioi Trail race.

Longtime locals John and Bev Swann own the farm where the event starts and ends, and as a result the whole family has embraced the mountain race that traverses Karioi twice.

Three generations of the family get up at the crack of dawn to help direct cars for parking, cheer on the contestants, man the barbecue, police the rubbish bins, console broken runners at the end of the race and hose down dirty feet. And the younger ones even compete.

Phil (Swanny) Swann, who is the fifth generation farmer on the Swann land and John’s son, says the family has always enjoyed taking part in community events, such as organising fundraising activities when the World Rally used to come around the mountain and the recent mud run at Ruapuke campground.

“It’s just about doing things in the community, talking to people.”

In preparation for the Raglan Karioi Trail, Swanny marks out the 2km kids’ race with temporary fencing and arrows, runs some stock through to chew down the grass, and on the day drives around on the motorbike “to pick up any kids that want to have a bit of a cheat”.

Swanny coaches Raglan Junior Rugby, and says he is encouraging all the young players to compete in the kids’ race.

His and Sioux’s three boys – Mason, 13, Mitch, 10 and Cody, 8 – all compete. Mason, who has won two medals in past years, is running in the 10km race for the first time this year.

Sioux says: “We cheer for everyone as they come in, encourage them to eat and drink, and get to catch up with local people.

“Keeping people’s spirits up is a big one. People come in completely covered in mud and they are exhausted.

“Get a beer in yah, yeah!”

Sioux also makes sure that everyone is recycling their rubbish, and will riffle through the rubbish bins to separate the orange peels, banana skins and coffee cups from landfill waste.

“I did get a bit of stick for that last year, but that’s how we do things here.”

Brother-in-law Frankie de Besten and Steph, also a Swann, help out with the food, handing out fruit and cooking hundreds of sausages and loads of chopped onions on the BBQ for sandwiches.

They all love helping out on the big day, although Bev admits it can be quite hectic.

And it doesn’t pay to be hung-over, Sioux laughs – like last year, when the whole family attended a 21st the night before. “There was nothing left in the tank by the end of the day.”

Raglan Karioi Trail organiser Francois Mazet says the Swanns’ contribution is valuable.

“They have grown up with the mountain as their back garden and from the moment we approached them with the idea of the event they’ve been behind us.

“They are happy to share their piece of paradise with everyone.”

Francois says about 25 volunteers help out with the race.

“They are the foundation, heart and strength of an event. They are the energy; they bring the atmosphere.

“Without them there would be no event.”

Inger Vos

*Raglan Karioi Trail is on Saturday, December 10. Mountain races include a 24km and 10km course and a 2km Mini Karioi Trail for children. See Raglankarioitrail.co.nz for more information.