Fiji ready to host first ultramarathon

Ana Cowley will feature in the race. Pictures: SUPPLIED

Ana Cowley will feature in the race. Pictures: SUPPLIED

FIJI’S picturesque interior to become global villages for South Pacific’s first ultramarathon.

In four days, the South Pacific’s first multi-stage ultramarathon — the Vodafone Lost Ultra Marathon — takes off close to Yaqara- on the north shore of Viti Levu, Fiji’s sun coast.

Some of Fiji’s most picturesque interior villages will become global villages with about 50 runners thronging here, plus three runners from Fiji taking part in the footrace that will cover more than 200 kilometres of pretty daunting terrain. Their reward for braving the challenge will be some incredible Fijian hospitality and stunning interior views along the way all of which will be showcased to a global audience.

World famous ultramarathoners from the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, France, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand are part of the starting line up.

Endurance races like this are becoming increasingly popular around the world and the proposed route will take runners from the sun coast, on the Ra coastline through the interior of Vitilevu and finish on the Coral Coast, near Sigatoka.

As much as possible, the ultra-running will take place off-road following old village tracks, old logging tracks and disused roads.

The runners will camp together every night and will have to prepare their own food.

Fiji’s female entrant Anna Cowley, will be a familiar face to those of you that walk or run along the sea wall. She can usually also be heard encouraging everyone to join her and run.

Winning the Suva Marathon women’s title three times, Anna’s has also taken on the Kokoda challenge, a 100km charity event, with her first ultra marathon being the 250km Big Red Run through the Simpson desert in Queensland in 2015. Anna is a passion advocate for women and girls in sport. She hopes that in a small way her efforts will inspire others to get out there and exercise.

Anna credits running with giving her confidence, discipline, an appreciation of the value of hard work and the courage to set ambitious goals. She’s also made great friendships with runners of all nationalities, sizes and shapes and is looking forward to welcoming the runners next week to her island home.

For one of Fiji’s two male athletes, Petero Manoa recently tested his endurance when he became Fiji’s first Iron Man completing the mother-of-all triathlons- swimming 3.8km, cycling 180km, and running 42.2km, in New Zealand. For the Macuata lad, becoming an Iron Man was a lifelong dream to be crossed of his bucket list.

Born with a natural stamina, and the ability to switch between the three demanding sports of the triathlon, his journey of endurance began at school when he found he was much better suited to 5000m and 1000m events than the more glamorous sprints.

He tried rugby but found it was not his calling. And he’s a natural endurance athlete. And no matter how tough the challenge he’s always smiling, calm and collected. Although he knows it’s going to be a tough one, he is relaxed and is just not excited to meet the rest of the ultra distance runners but also return to some of the villages that hosted him last year when he was involved in helping to scope the route.

Eroni Takape, who helped to scope the course last year, decided only a few weeks ago that he was in good enough shape to join Anna and Petero and become the third Fijian representative.

The father of three is best known among the cycling community in Suva as the go to guy for bike repairs. He’s also an experienced cross country runner so couldn’t let the opportunity of a coast to coast ultra marathon pass him by. The Burning Tricycling Club events the Lauan, who has been in love with cycling since ten can usually be seen with all three children in tow who are quickly taking after their father and demonstrating a fantastic ability for swimming, cycling and running.

You can follow the Vodafone Lost Island Ultramarathon on facebook @LostIslandUltra

* Josephine Prasad is part of the Vodafone Lost Ultra Marathon organising committee as the Media and Communications Advisor. She will bring us regular columns during the duration of the ultramarathon.

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