Running the Tongariro Crossing; A Mother and Son Adventure

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Sally Currie is a mum and wife to Macpac ambassador and multi-sport athlete Braden Currie. In this blog, she chats to Macpac about raising confident, independent outdoor kids and her relationship with her son.

Having my son, Tarn (13), by my side is something I’m grateful for every day. He is one of my best mates, and I love that we share experiences together as equals. For me, my natural role as a parent is to be a sounding board; not to tell him how to live his life, how to operate as a human being, what dreams and goals he should have or how well he should do. I don’t even try. If there is something he needs to talk about, we talk about it openly and he forms his own opinion and own way of being, tapping into who he really is; what drives him and his passions which leads to what he wishes to pursue. I believe the result of this philosophy, is a son so capable and independent, he barely needs mothering. He makes his own decisions and accepts accountability for them whether they go right or wrong.

Let me take you back to the beginning of lockdown, late March 2020.

Tarn is a motivated kid who likes to stay busy. It took him just two days to realize he needed to bring structure into his day so that he knew he was moving forward and making the most of lockdown. He sat down and organized a daily structure which looked like this:

  • Yummy breakfast with the family
  • 1.5 hours of homework (Mathematics, English, Passion projects, Writing)
  • Run or bike ride with Mum
  • Yummy lunch with the family
  • Free time?

I know watching his Dad follow a training program and achieve great things in sport has set the bar for Tarn to be ambitious in this way too. I have to admit I didn’t see it coming, but sure enough, when Tarn turned twelve, he became more doggedly committed to training than anyone in our family, including Braden! The goal quickly became to cover 100km on the bike per week. For me, my goal was to do 30km of running. This was something Tarn also considered, but once he realized he doesn’t have to thrash his body as a kid, he decided his run goal was 12km per week.

Given the opportunity, Tarn would be up at 5am to swim, bike or run every day — but our philosophy is that there is no rush and he should enjoy being a kid. He is still learning to understand this.

Earlier this year we were in Taupo for Ironman New Zealand. I suggested to Tarn that we run the Tongariro Crossing together in a day and of course, he was pumped. We planned the mission and packed our gear. Our alarms sounded at 5am and off we went. I noticed very early on that Tarn had researched the top 10 Strava times (for both female and male) and had already built an expectation into his mind of what we were to achieve that day. I went with it and somewhat expected that we would make the leaderboard but as we got into it, Tarn, on his own account relaxed into it and accepted it was simply a fun day out (although I know there was a part of him that would have loved to have thrashed himself out there). We ran and walked the steep parts. Of course, he still kept an eye on his time and pressed pause on his Garmin every time we stopped for a food or toilet break to ensure the end Strava time was ‘moving time’ only so that people wouldn’t judge him for all that down time.

We crossed on an absolutely stunning day. In total there were approximately sixty people on the track compared to the 3000+ that apparently used to be normal volumes (pre-covid). After we over-took the first bus load in the first kilo-meter we basically had it to ourselves. I felt so appreciative of being able to enjoy this great walk of New Zealand with it being so different to anything we have in the South Island. Making the most of the opportunities we have in New Zealand right now is what really sang true to me and being able to experience that with my son knowing the importance of giving him the opportunity to delve into a new skill (long-distance running) where he had to look after himself, his nutrition, safety and push himself (he bonked a little bit in the third hour). I think it’s so important to offer kids a variety of experiences and challenges as they grow and become capable of new things to really find their feet and what they love as opposed to single faceted direction.

I very much hope I can bring up a confident young man who believes in himself and is confident enough to pursue what he feels is right in life. To me, that’s a fairly simplistic goal and I’m thankful for the epic outdoor adventure backyard and culture we have in New Zealand which plays a big part in this.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Sally. When it comes to outdoor adventures with kids, there’s definitely no ‘one method fits all’ that works for every family. If you’re just starting out on the journey, Sally has a few more tips here: https://blog.macpac.co.nz/raising-an-outside-kid/