News & Updates
Local boy Armstrong aiming to defend trail running title
For New Zealand trail running champion Vajin Armstrong, a return to his home city of Christchurch to defend his title at the Crater Rim Ultra is a privilege and an opportunity to relish.
A year ago, the versatile endurance ace won a thrilling duel with Daniele Danesin, overhauling the long-time leader in the final mile of the 53km endurance test.
For Vajin to secure his maiden New Zealand title and join legendary Kiwi icons such as Sir Murray Halberg and Sir Peter Snell was a huge honour, and he is only too happy to return to a race where he has many happy memories.
“I enjoyed the race last year and being a local boy it would seem rude not to turn up for a national championship and try to defend my crown,” explains Armstrong, who celebrated his 40th birthday in May.
“I’m incredibly grateful of the situation we find ourselves in here in New Zealand. We have very little risk of catching Covid and the very fact we can train with other people and hold races is a privilege. My friends in America and Europe can’t believe we are racing and nobody is wearing masks. What was normal six months ago is what many people around the world are pining for.
“If you have the opportunity to race, it would seem foolish to turn it down because we don’t know two to three months from now how things are going to look.”
Despite the good fortune many New Zealanders find themselves in during the global pandemic, it has required a significant adjustment for Armstrong.
Typically living and racing in Europe during the Northern Hemisphere summer, for the first time in more than a decade he has spent the entire winter training in New Zealand.
During that period, he has spent time training alongside one of the world’s leading endurance trail runners in Kiwi Scotty Hawker and he believes the prolonged period at home has been a positive experience.
“To have competed in some local club events has been great,” he explains. “It has given me the opportunity to train in a stable environment without the distraction of longer races in the mountains.”
Over the past few weeks, he has fine-tuned his preparation for the defence of the national trail running title with a couple of encouraging performances.
Late last month, he recorded a solid 2:39:18 to place fifth in the Rotorua Marathon. In his most recent outing, he finished second at Abel Tasman Coastal Classic trail race, recording a handy 2:28:05 clocking for the 31.5km distance.
He feels in a good place ahead of Sunday’s assault but is also fully aware of the quality of the opposition he will face.
“I’m excited heading into this weekend and my conditioning and endurance is really strong,” explains Vajin who juggles working as an athletics coach, a meditation teacher and selling musical instruments. “But I know this year will be more competitive than last year with the likes of Weston Hill and Scott Hawker competing. It will take a better performance to win the race this year than last year.
“I feel blessed to have had the success I have had in my career and now I’m into my 40s I don’t feel any pressure. Every race is an opportunity to go out and test myself, push as hard as I can and see what is possible.”
Armstrong is also excited for any athlete experiencing the stunning 53km Crater Rim course for the first time.
“It has so much meaning for athletes in Christchurch, who have done a vast amount of their training in the Port Hills,” he adds.
“It is a unique trail with lots of complexity and a variety of geography. On the inside of the crater you have this dense, low bush and outside of the crater some very open, flowing tussock trails. The top of Mt Herbert offers some amazing views of the panorama of Pegasus Bay and the Southern Alps. Sometimes as a local runner you take this for granted but it will be nice to share this with out-of-town runners.”