News & Updates

4 September 2020 • General

Aitken shines in six-hour slog

Nine of New Zealand’s ultrarunners have just put their bodies through a gruelling six-hour run in the name of solidarity with Mel Aitken putting in a particularly outstanding performance.

Aitken was New Zealand’s stand-out in the IAU 6hr Virtual Global Solidarity Run, which attracted more than 400 runners from 34 teams around the world.

It was organised as a response to the global pandemic, which forced the cancellation of this year’s IAU events, and it was hoped the six-hour event would bring solidarity among the global ultrarunning community during these challenging times.

New Zealand entered a team of three men and six women for the six-hour virtual run with Aitken accumulating a total distance of 73.2km in her six-hour slog, a performance which surpassed the national record distance of 71.1km by Shannon-Leigh Litt.

However, because of the nature of the virtual event and the fact Aitken completed the distance on an uncertified course, the distance will not stand for record purposes.

Nonetheless, Aitken, 43, was delighted to feature in the event in which she completed the gruelling distance along the Hutt Valley and into Wellington.

“With all that COVID had thrown at us, the event seemed like a challenge,” explains the experienced Aitken.

“I had an ambitious goal to complete 80km, and I did give it a crack. I was on a pace of 4min 30sec kilometres for quite some time but my pace dropped off at the end because I didn’t quite get my nutrition right.

“Still, I was more than happy with my performance and it was fun to see what I could achieve.”

Aucklander Andrew McDowall was the pick of the Kiwi men, completing a distance of 72.84km while, because of the severe lockdown restrictions in Victoria, Melbourne-based Kiwi Stuart Hughes was forced to complete the six-hour run in his sloping and muddy back garden. Hughes ran a total distance of 41.71km.

Wayne Botha, who serves as chair of the IAU Athletes’ Commission, completed the virtual event on a 3km loop in Long Bay on Auckland’s North Shore.

“Many people had been lacking in motivation because of the scarcity of events but the virtual race helped keep the spirit alive and many of us put in extra training for this event,” he says.

“There was a great sense of camaraderie among the competing New Zealand athletes. We were in touch and motivating each other leading up to the race so, even though we were scattered all around the country, it felt like we were running together.

“It was great that our small community had the chance to come together in solidarity.”

IAU 6hr Virtual Global Solidarity Run Results


Andrew McDowall – 72.84km
Wayne Botha – 60.47km
Stuart Hughes – 41.71km


Mel Aitken – 73.20km
Dawn Tuffery – 69.09km
Fiona Hayvice – 65.56km
Emma Bassett – 64.26km
Debrah Breedt – 58.58km
Emily Solsberg – 56.40km