Shay Broomhall anticipates it will take about 100 days to run the length of New Zealand.
After reconnecting with family in Warkworth, teenager Shay Broomhall set off last week on a gruelling solo expedition to run the length of New Zealand – crossing every conceivable kind of terrain, from 90 Mile Beach in the far north to the Southern Alps and beyond.
Shay began his run in Cape Reinga and anticipates it will take about 100 days to reach Bluff, at the bottom of the South Island, by covering about 30km a day along the Te Araroa trail.
It’s believed he will be the youngest person to have run the entire trail unsupported and is carrying everything he needs on his back, including a tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear, food and emergency equipment.
Shay, 19, returned to New Zealand early this year after spending most of his life in Essex, England. While at school there, he learned about and was dismayed by the plight of refugees who had fled to Europe.
He hopes to raise as much money as possible during his run to bolster aid efforts.
While in England, Shay joined Care4Calais, distributing relief supplies to refugees in northern France and Belgium.
He says many of the refugees had fled parts of the Middle East – such as Syria and Lebanon – and others came from Africa.
“The media seems to portray them as not really people. But when you speak to them you find out that they are doctors and engineers and things like that. They would much rather be back home if they could be,” he says.
“One of the guys had seen his brother shot in front of him. Others had been stripped of their jobs back home.”
In addition to regular relief supplies such as tents and clothes, Care4Calais also sets up electrical generators and provided hairdressing kits, so that refugees could plug in electric shavers and get much needed haircuts.
Shay says the behaviour of the French authorities was appalling, regularly slashing tents and forcing refugees to move on.
Many refugees tried to escape by stowing away on trucks bound for the United Kingdom, but regularly got caught. One man Shay spoke to had been stuck in a refrigerated truck for 18 hours.
“My run, although a difficult journey, will be nothing compared to the journey these refugees make to western Europe,” he says.
Shay anticipates he will probably run for five or six days straight, then take a “rest” day, which will likely mean walking rather than running. He says he feels in good physical shape. He formerly played semi-professional football for Brightlingsea Regent FC, based in Essex, and recently completed a 50km ultra-marathon in Taupo.
Challenges for the New Zealand run include the possibility of sustaining an injury and some treacherous river crossings in the South Island. But Shay has no doubt that he will complete the journey.
“Even if I end up having to walk it, I will be happy with that,” he says.
To support Shay’s refugee fundraising effort, visit goldengiving.com/fundraising/runshay