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After a year of build-up and talk – including countless hours pounding the pavements and early morning starts - we finally conquered it. The run that started off as a 40-minute jog soon increased to running for five hours at a time. The word ‘run’ took on a whole new meaning and came to occupy a good part of our day. Our longest training run was about 43km - from Hobsonville, to the top of Mt Vic in Devonport and home again.

All of this training was in preparation to run the 2005 Kepler Challenge, a 60km mountain run in Fiordland. We planned to run the well- known Kepler Track, a popular three day tramp, in under 10 hours while carrying the compulsory gear which included two sets of thermals, wet weather jacket and pants, hat, gloves, food and water.

Talk about the run started at the beginning of 2005, and it wasn’t long before people were asking how our training was going. We were given a lot of support from so many people and in particular the Base Auckland Junior Ranks Club, which provided sponsorship and helped fund the event.

It is the support from people around you that really helps to keep your goals in focus. Another important person who had given us a lot of support was CPL Clint Smith.

On 3 April 2005, Debs lost her partner Clint in a motorcycle accident. This was the only time our training was put to one side. It was hard to know at the time if the training would even continue but completing this challenge now had a whole new meaning. We were no longer running just for ourselves, but for Clint as well.

It was Clint that helped us get up the hills when our legs were tired on our long training runs, and Clint that made getting up at 5am when it was raining outside not that hard after all. Some days we did think he could have done something about the weather for us though. Our team name ‘4Q Clint’ was also inspired by him. Members of No. 5 Squadron maintenance will know this saying well!

Eight months to the day after the loss of Clint we completed the Challenge in 9.04hrs. We were buzzing the whole way and there was never a time of doubt about finishing. I think we would have crawled to the end if we had to just through pure determination.

The thought of having to climb up to 1400 metres at first seemed daunting but when we were doing it we had a great time just knowing

Karinne and Debs a few minutes after crossing the finish line.

that we were finally doing what we had been talking about so much. The view at the top was amazing. It was so good we stopped to take some pictures. After the hill climb we weren’t sure if we would ever want to come back up.

After 3.5 hrs of going up, we were then able to head down the mountain.

After a rolled ankle and some good pain relief we made it to the bottom after 4.5hrs. At this time, the man we called ‘Super Human’ Phil Costley, was crossing the finish line. It was hard to comprehend that someone had finished when we knew we still had a marathon to run.

The hardest part of the run was between the 35km and 45km marks. The test was on, with sore legs from the hill climb and still approximately 4-5 hours running ahead. Aside from pure deter- mination it‘s often little things, like the trampers on the track cheering us on, that can keep you going. It really helped, as did getting to a check point where you were greeted by Lepin Squeezy drinks, Jelly beans and Muesli bars . For the first few check-points we carried on through without stopping unless it was an equipment check. But the last few, especially in the last 15km, we didn’t want to leave.

At the 11km-to-go check-point known as Rain- bows Reach we were greeted by our support crew Claire, Richard and Susan. We had given them a list of things such as Moro bars and Powerade drinks to bring. We could hardly talk let alone eat a Moro bar. All we could do was nod and try to smile. Our facial expressions didn’t look apprecia- tive but it did so much for morale and made that

last homeward slog so much easier.

The next check-point was 5Km-to-go and it felt good to know the next check-point would be the finish. It seemed to take so long to get there as we could hear the runners being welcomed in on a microphone. The finish line felt close yet so far away. It wasn’t long before we too could see the finish line where crowds of people were supporting us as we ran through with interlinking arms and Debs holding onto her photo of Clint that we each had taped onto our packs so we had him running with us.

We had made it and crossing the line just absolutely took our breaths away. We had done it. We had just proved that even through the toughest of times if you have a goal and set your mind to it you will achieve it.

Our support crew were fantastic not only on the day of the run but also the two days after. It was the day after when the heavy quads set in and any form of slope that we had to walk along felt like a mountain.

It wasn’t long before we had decided if we would do it again. By the next morning we were both confident that we would be there again next December. It was such a fantastic feeling of achievement and an absolute buzz. We are already talking about how we are going to train for it next year and there has been discussions of such minor details as not staying in an apart- ment with stairs the day after. We look forward to talking to any others who wish to join in the fun next year and a big thank you to everyone who has supported us.

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