Ultra running: Running the length of New Zealand – that's a thing to Bragg about

It's cleansed me, says record-breaker of his 53-day, 1,864-mile feat of endurance

The recorded message on Jez Bragg's mobile phone says he is on an "extended sabbatical". But that doesn't tell a fraction of what the British ultra-runner has been up to over the last couple of months.

He has broken a record, for a start, for the fastest traverse of the 3,000km (1,864-mile) Te Araroa trail, which runs the length of New Zealand.

Even the bare numbers – 53 days of running an average of 35 miles daily – sells Bragg's achievement short. Factor in that he ran over mountain ranges, through shoulder-high grass and knee-deep mud – plus 80 miles of kayaking – and you begin to get a picture of what he did.

Then there was the giardia, an intestinal parasite he contracted in a remote part of South Island on day 37. It floored him for three days with excruciating stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhoea.

"To be perfectly honest, I thought [it was over] then," he told the Talk Ultra podcast hours after finishing in the southern town of Bluff. "I was in a really bad way for three full days and for several days afterwards I was not back to full strength. To go from running 16 to 18-hour days to being horizontal for three days was bizarre in itself. It just made me feel so low. I had gone to almost like an old man who was bedridden, weak and helpless.

"I remained determined to try and get going again but there was a nagging doubt, of how I can ever get back strong enough to run 60 or 70 kilometres a day again. There were all sorts of things going through my head. The fourth day after being struck down, I thought, 'Right, I want to do something', and I walked four kilometres down the trail with two sticks and I literally couldn't go any further. I had to stop and try again. The next day it was 20 kilometres, then the following one I managed 40, over some really tough terrain."

Bragg, who ditched healthy breakfasts early in the expedition in favour of fry-ups, to ingest enough energy, did finish, three days over his original target of 50 days. And even with the high-calorie diet, the figure that held the Union Jack aloft in Bluff last Sunday was noticeably thinner – with a full-face wildman beard – than the one who set off in the far north of New Zealand on 12 December.

Bragg, who was given the chance to tackle the route through his sponsors The North Face, said the run changed him mentally too. "It was harder than I had ever imagined," he said. "There were so many things thrown at me, it has been incredibly hard to deal with. It has solidified me physically and mentally, knowing I can push myself through some really horrible lows.

"I know it will change me, for sure. It has stripped away my daily life and revealed my core emotions. I really hope to retain that, because it illustrates what is important in my life and now I know that. It has cleansed me.

"It has been the ultimate break and has given me the chance to clear myself out. I will probably be more relaxed – I am not sure how I will settle back down to commuting to London for work, though."

For the full interview go to iancorless.com

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high