Barry Rowe is gearing up for his 22nd Dun Run on August 28. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Dun Run celebrates 25 years


Infamous for its rugged and unpredictable terrain, the Dun Run is renowned as one of Nelson’s toughest and celebrates its 25th anniversary this month. Jonty Dine meets the race’s most loyal competitor.

By day Barry Rowe is a successful property valuer, donning a suit at his Halifax St office, but once a year he pushes his body to the extreme in one of Nelson’s most brutal trail runs.

The unforgiving terrain of the Dun Run is drenched in the blood of hundreds of runners who have attempted to tame it.

Barry is one such victim, but a few cut knees and scraped elbows haven’t stopped him from competing in all but three of the infamous races.

Not for the faint of heart, the 26km run sees runners enter “the Backwoods of Nelson” along its sub alpine mineral belt.

The stunning scenery starkly contrast with the brutal nature of the track. Runners are treated to sweeping views out to a glittering Tasman Bay as they descend New Zealand’s first railway line.

Barry has competed in all but three of the Dun Runs since inception and is known as the trail’s most loyal runner.

The track was described to the 58-year-old as ‘rugged but runnable’ before first taking it on 1994.

During his 22 races Barry has seen his fair share of claret spilled in a bid to cross the finish line.

“Every year there are people with blood coming out of their knees, foreheads, elbows.”

However, the gruelling nature of the run just adds to its legacy.

“You have got to concentrate the whole time, or you’ll trip and fall.”

Barry says while he has learned to be vigilant, there is always the risk of a hidden rock on the track.

“You just have to watch your foot placement and be wary of things that will trip you up.”

He says while mentally and physically taxing, it’s an extremely satisfying feeling to keep crossing them off.

“It is such beautiful backcountry right on our doorstep, I’ve always preferred trail running to road running.”

Barry’s best Dun Run finish came in 2000 when he conquered it in 2 hours and 27 minutes.

However, he will continue to challenge his body year after year until it won’t allow him to do so.

“I’ll keep going as long as the knees, hips and rest of me holds together.”

The Dun Run’s legacy began back in the late 1990s when Nelson Striders stalwarts, Averil and Graeme West sensed a move to off-road trail running.

He says the course had it all, more than a hint of history plus plenty of scenery and only the best could take it on back in the day.

“It was more than a testing scramble up a rock laden creek bed to the Saddle, nowadays this is surpassed with a gentler bypass to Coppermine.”

He says Greg Fraine was “the King” back in those days, winning both in ‘95 and ‘96 and he’ll re-lace his running shoes this year to be part of the celebrations.

Graeme says 325 runners have already signed on to take on this year’s Dun Run.

After reaching Coppermine Saddle all then get to descend New Zealand’s first railway line plus get a first-hand look as they cross the newly installed footbridge which looks to stop historic trail from slipping further into the Brook Sanctuary’ confines.

Graeme says the field is almost equally split between locals and visitors with a trio from overseas.

The 25th edition of the Dun Run takes place on August 28th. Full details and online entry available at