East coast magic, New Zealand

The Toi Challenge is a annual 18km trail race in the summer around a gorgeous headland near the coastal township of Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. The track covers varied terrain including coastal headlands to remote beaches, ridge running and dense bushland, home to native kiwi and many other birdlife.

With heavy snow covering NZ peaks and passes in August, I went looking for a winter weekend coastal trail run and together with Ben, my go to adventure buddy ( we all have one of those :-) ), we completed the Toi track.

Running the track in reverse from Ohope Beach, with the threat of rain overhead, we bounded off around the headlands, following the clearly marked single trail.

It is wise to read the tides before departure and we had no issues navigating the coast where the track is just the hightide mark. However soon enough we were climbing to the ridgeline and running freely on excellent single track bush along the harbour entrance to Whakatane township.

The track dips into town, but soon enough cardio kicks in as the inland trail climbs steeply up wooden stairways through dense bush with fantail and tui birds happily chirping encouragement along the way. Ben seemed talkative enough, but my lungs were burning as the climb wound it's way ever upward.

It is not all climbing though, with fast down hill sections where one can really let the legs fly and enjoy everything that is good about running trails. 

At about the 2 hour mark we crested the last high point and the sounds and peeps of the open ocean called us down the last free flowing trail to Ohope Beach.

We popped out of the bush just after 11am as the much threatened rain began to pelt down and after a quick change into warm clothes, tucked into a Big Breakfast at a local cafe. Perfect!