Vajin Armstrong is all about endurance and pushing himself as far as he can go. As an ultra distance runner, he knows the importance of thorough training, and for the past year he’s been preparing for one of the toughest challenges he’s faced yet – a European tour made up of some of the toughest distance races he’s come across.
We sat down with Vajin at the beginning of his tour to hear about how he’s fared so far, and what he’s most looking forward to on this trip.
Vajin’s calendar is always full – he’s always anticipating the next big race, the next challenge, and the next opportunity to beat his personal bests.
“For me, it’s all about learning. I am still learning and improving, even though I’ve been running seriously for 15 years now. It has been a very long and tough road, which has taught me much about myself and has made me an infinitely better person. For me, the practice of running is all about the journey of ‘Self Transcendence’ – I am always seeking to challenge myself and go beyond what I have achieved before, and what I think is possible.”
Although he’s been running for a long time, Vajin’s first ultra marathon was in 2009, and by the following year, he had achieved his first major win at the iconic Kepler Challenge in Fiordland.
“These runs opened up a whole new world of running for me, and showed me that I could be competitive on both a national and international level,” explains Vajin.
Vajin’s European tour has been on his mind for a long time. In the lead-up, he could often be seen running around Christchurch’s Port Hills, and would frequently run over 200km a week.
“I had a great last few months of training in New Zealand, with a real emphasis on strength and speed. I managed to run personal bests over the half marathon and the marathon, as well as having had a good couple of runs over 100km as well.”
Now he’s in Europe, Vajin is taking his training to the next level – with a particular focus on getting as much vertical running in as he can. In some of his European races, Vajin will cover up to 1500 metres of climbing in one go, whereas in New Zealand, 500 metres of vertical is considered a big climb.
“There’s a real difference in terrain over here compared to back home. It has made my preparation even more important as I really need to make sure my legs are properly conditioned to handle the tough European courses,” he says.
Since arriving in Europe a week ago, Vajin has already run two races – the Haldi-Berglauf where he placed 10th, and the Bannalper Berglauf where he came in at second.
“These first few races are so important in terms of building up for the big races in July and August, so it’s great to be able to fit them in and incorporate them into my training schedule. The second race was definitely a step in the right direction, I ended up battling for the win until late in the race – a much stronger performance than the first race.”
Vajin still has another six races to go – including several particularly challenging runs such as the 168km UTMB in France.
“That race is just so long and includes almost 10,000 metres of climbing. There is so much hype and prestige around it, that for me to have a good performance there would be fantastic.”
He says he’s honoured to be representing New Zealand on the world stage and is grateful to all of his supporters who have encouraged and inspired him on his journey so far.
“I feel completely blessed to be over here pursuing something that I love. I am acutely aware of just how lucky I am to have this opportunity and I know that it will not last forever. It’s not often you get to spend three months living your dream up in the Alps so I want to appreciate it while I can.”
June 14 – Haldi Berglauf, Switzerland (9.5km, 1419m of climbing/vertical
June 21 – Bannalper Berglauf, Switzerland (11km, 1180m vertical)
June 28 – Bettmeralp Aletsch Half, Switzerland
Jul 4 – Zermatt Marathon, including the World Mountain Running association World Long Distance Championships, Switzerland
Jul 18 – Laugavegur Ultra Marathon, Iceland
Jul 25 – Swiss Alpine K78, Switzerland
Aug 8 – Glacier 3000, Switzerland
Aug 28 – UTMB 100Miles, France
What’s in your travel pack?
Vajin’s European races will take him to a range of different environments – from the mountains, to the road. Macpac has sponsored Vajin with an ‘Epic’ sleeping bag, a duffle bag, hoodies, shorts and jackets among other items.
“I’ve worked with Macpac to make sure I’m prepared for every scenario – from the very cold, to the very hot, and the wet to the dry. It’s important to be comfortable when you’re competing on any level.”
Macpac Epic 160 Sleeping bag – “Super light, super compact, and still keeps you warm.”
Macpac Pulsar Hoddy
Macpac Hybrid Jacket
Macpac Prophet AP Lightweight Jacket
Macpac Uber Light Down Jacket
Macpac Warp T-Shirts and Long-Sleeve Shirts
Special Edition Macpac Tank and Running Tights
Macpac 120L Wheeled Duffle – “Bomb-proof and super easy to transport.”
Macpac Voyager Pants
Macpac Jetstream Waterproof pants
Shop the Macpac webstore here
You can follow Vajin’s journey on the Macpac Blog, and on his Facebook page