The Revenant - find your limits, then go again...
‘A true challenge is when failure is the most likely outcome.’
The unofficial motto of the Revenant serves both as an invitation, and a warning.
The Revenant is an unsupported individual or two person team Ultra Adventure Run covering more than 190km and about 16,000m of vertical ascent, if you navigate it perfectly. There’s no support crew to supply fresh socks, a warm cuppa or a much needed energy-boosting snack.
It’s held each year at Welcome Rock on Blackmore Station, in Northern Southland, perched majestically high above the old world charm of Garston - an area rich in goldrush history. Early settlers named it Welcome Rock as they used it as a meeting and trading point.
Miners bashed their way across this unforgiving wilderness. Very few got rich. Most didn't. Many never came back. You'll race across the same unforgiving terrain, probably with the same chance of success.
Navigation is by map and compass only. You have 60 hours to complete four laps of the punishing circuit - collecting proof you’ve been to all 14 checkpoints - but the cut-off times might get you first.
A briefing the day before in the relative luxury of the station woolshed gives you your first look at the route you’ll be taking - and time to get some protein on board off the barbecue. Family and friends, and anyone else that’s curious, are welcome to attend.
As first light breaks on race day, the urgent cry of the pūtātara (shell trumpet) rings out signalling that the Revenant is drawing near.
Then it’s off across the craggy tussock tops, ski poles in hand, enthusiasm and optimism in every step.
It’s these same traits that will be pushed to the limit and beyond as you cross glacial streams strewn with slippery rocks, creep along ledges, pick your path through dense, high-country tussocks, and climb up through thick beech forest.
The rocky outcrops that are tricky by day become treacherous at night as you clamber through spikey alpine grasses seeking out your shins and ankles.
As the burning summer sun recedes, the fog can close in. You’ll be in the bush, at night, alone. You’ll get little sleep for three days. Your brain can play tricks on you.
The most brutal race in New Zealand, some say. Do you win the Revenant? No - it’s a challenge. You compete against yourself, and the race.
The event attracts a wide range of people from military people, ultra-runners, farmers - anyone up to the task of challenging themselves in extraordinary ways.
Adults can be brought to tears by the experience - going to places didn’t think possible and generally going further, and harder.
Just gaining entry is an achievement.
Before taking part, you’ll be scrutinised by event organiser Scott - who will run the ruler over your personal credentials. The Revenant is limited to 40 starters each year.
As for what you get out of it - well, that’s personal to you. Some talk of a heightened, maybe even an unprecedented, sense of wellbeing and personal achievement. The few who have completed it get a sip of the Welcome Rock Whisky.
And with challenge comes discovery - The Revenant shines a light on one of the last wilderness places on earth. It’s history, virtually untapped.
Northern Southland is a beautiful contrast of green, rolling farmland, majestic snow-capped mountains, and tussock clad high country. The heritage stories of our pioneering forbears can be explored on foot, on horse, on mountain bike, or by 4-wheel-drive.
Whether you are up for the challenge of the Revenant - or you want to explore an untapped wilderness at your own pace - Northern Southland has everything you need.