Wednesday 18 September 2019

Hash browns and milkshakes fuel runner along length of New Zealand

Perry Newburn, a 64-year-old former drug addict, used a nutrition plan including stops at McDonald’s to power him along the 1,300-mile journey.

Perry Newburn, left, runs with support crew member Graeme Calder (Bette Flagler via AP)
Perry Newburn, left, runs with support crew member Graeme Calder (Bette Flagler via AP)

By Nick Perry, Associated Press

A New Zealander has run the length of his country in a record time of 18 days and eight hours – fuelled by hash browns and chocolate milkshakes.

Perry Newburn, a 64-year-old former drug addict, used a nutrition plan including stops at McDonald’s to power him along the 1,300-mile journey.

He kept his pace in his head rather than using a fancy GPS watch, and his support crew for half the distance consisted of his friend Graeme driving ahead in a Toyota Corolla.

Mr Newburn averaged close to three full marathons each day along the journey, which he finished on Wednesday.

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Perry Newburn, left, with support crew member Graeme Calder (Kashif Shuja/AP)

About 50 people ran alongside him at various points, and he raised several thousand dollars for an autism charity.

“To be able to achieve those kinds of things, you have to be an unusual character,” said Bette Flagler, who supported Mr Newburn along part of the route on the North Island.

Things got more intense towards the end of his journey, as he faced unseasonal snowstorms and hail.

Mr Newburn said he needed to hold his emotions in check until he got to the finish.

“I almost collapsed in a blubbering mess,” he said. “I was just so elated. And happy I didn’t have to get up the next morning at silly o’clock.”

He was often on the road at 4am and ran through each day and into the night.

My job was for him not to die, and bring him back safely Kashif Shuja

He said he discovered running after he gave up heroin in the early 1990s, following a 16-year battle with the drug.

“Running was a good way of clearing my head,” he said. “It was part of the process of getting everything back into the right space again. Rebuilding myself, I suppose.”

Distance runner Lisa Townsend joined Mr Newburn one day for about 46 miles before finishing with sore feet while he continued.

She said that, because they were running along the side of a small highway with many trucks driving past, they needed to keep their wits about them. They passed the time by chatting and counting pylons.

Friend Kashif Shuja said Mr Newburn relied on a crumpled 20-year-old paper map to plot his route.

Worried that a few weeks out Newburn didn’t have so much as a spreadsheet to plan each day, Mr Shuja stepped in to help arrange accommodation, meetings with other runners, and social media.

“My job was for him not to die, and bring him back safely,” he joked. “What he’s done is inspired thousands of people into doing more than they think they can.”

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