Refugees conquer Old Ghost Ultra

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Competitors from New Zealand, Australia, the United States and even Myanmar competed in New Zealand’s newest ultramarathon.

A group of young Myanmar refugees living in Nelson, led by local Nigel Muir ran 85 km and climbed more than 2,600 metres along the recently completed Old Ghost Road on Saturday.

In crossing the finishing line at Lyell, Nigel concluded Stage 1 of an inspirational campaign designed to raise awareness and funds for young Kiwi’s to get more involved in the outdoors.

Muir’s creation, ‘Go Wild NZ’ saw him accompanied by young Myanmar refugees running in relay across the demanding course.

Event director Phil Rossiter says they were blessed with one of the most incredible fields you could ever hope for.

“Not only were we graced with some of the finest athletes in the country, we were also graced with some of the finest people in the country. Being able to spend some time alongside the competitors who were physically leaving it ‘all out there’ on the course yet were still oozing positive energy at the finish line was a complete privilege and an experience I’ll never forget. This was a very special group of people” said Rossiter.

“There were just so many layers and stories running through this whole event. The ‘Go Wild NZ’ team touched a lot of hearts and made a real impact” said Rossiter.

In a very fitting conclusion, line honours were shared by the highly credentialed Ben Aynsley of Greymouth and Ruby Muir of Napier who crossed the finishing line together in a staggeringly slick time of 7 hours and 53 minutes.

Brendon Bradley of Christchurch crossed the line just over 3 minutes later to take 3rd place and also post a sub 8-hour time.

Aynsley and Muir took out the Open Men and Women categories as a result of their efforts, with the Veteran Men and Women categories being won by Bernard Robinson of Arrowtown and Paulette Birchfield of Greymouth in times of 8 hours 44 minutes and 10 hours 40 minutes respectively.

The first ‘local’ over the line was Rhys Bowen of Westport in a time of 9 hours and 7 minutes.