An Interview with Dan Slater, The Trail Running Mastermind Behind The NUTR.
On ANZAC Day this year, Sydney-based trail runner Dan Slater will be taking on an extraordinary challenge by running around the small Pacific rock that is Easter Island. It's not a race and no-one else is involved, although the event does have a very appropriate title - The NUTR. Why is he doing this? Just because.
Tell us a little bit about the event.
It's basically an off-road run clockwise around the coastline of Easter Island. It looks like being between 65 and 70 km all up, but I won't know for sure until I've done it.
How did you come up with the idea?
I sort of dreamed it actually. I was being sent to Chile anyway so I was trying to think of a way of justifying an extra trip to Easter Island by doing something unusual and challenging, rather than just the regular tourist stuff. I was in that twilight zone between waking and sleeping, scientifically proven to be the time when you're most likely to come up with great ideas, and it just hit me. I spent the next few hours lying awake, planning every detail.
How did you come up with the name?
NUTR stands for Nui Ultra Trail Run, Rapa Nui being the indigenous name for Easter Island. And, well, it had a nice ring to it.
What sort of training have you been doing?
Running. I think that's the go, really. We don't have many volcanoes in Sydney so I've been limited to flat-ish trails. I have just come back from Tasmania where I hiked the Overland Track though. I took my running gear and sprinted up a couple of the mountains, including Mt. Ossa – the highest in Tasmania. That was good.
What sort of terrain are you expecting?
Well the island is triangular with a volcano at each corner, so I'm expecting three major climbs. Apart from that, fields full of black boulders and rubble, impregnable cliffs, disused quarries, hungry natives. I might have to leap over the odd lava flow here and there.
Are you expecting a tough field?
I'm expecting quite a few tough fields, especially the ones with cows in them. I may have to carry a stout stick.
What I mean is, how many runners are you expecting to take part?
The final figure isn't in yet but my rough calculation of current interest puts it at around … one. That's me. I'm not too surprised to be honest, as I made the event an invitational and didn't invite anyone else.
Because I wanted to win, and I think pretty much any other serious runner that entered would have put an end to that dream.
Right, so assuming you're winning, what do you think your chances are of a finish?
Fair to middling. I'm definitely in with a chance as long as I don't run off a cliff or smack into a hefty cow, but you never know. I don't want to make any assumptions.
What is your strategy?
To run as fast as I can. It worked in my last race, a 50 km trail run in NSW. I won and set a new course record.
Will you be taking time out to look at the famous statues?
There are statues? Just kidding. I'll be glancing at them as I speed past, obviously, but unfortunately they won't be getting the attention they deserve. If I have time before my flight out I'll hobble around a few of the sites.
How have the locals responded to your crazy idea?
I don't know, I haven't told any of them. I'm hoping they will wave as I run past and not set their dogs on me.
Do you expect a big crowd at the finish line?
I'm starting and finishing in Hanga Roa, the only town, and if my timing is right I'll roll in mid-afternoon so there should be a few people about. I'm hoping one or two shopkeepers might actually have seen me leave and maybe wonder where the hell I've been all day in shorts, in April.
How much research have you done on the route?
It's not easy to get a topographical map of the island, so Google maps has been useful. My research led me to a lady called Susie Stephen, who apparently had the same great idea a couple of years ago. In 2014 she ran around the island following an ancient trail called the Ara Mahiva. She uploaded her route to Suunto Movescount so that should be immensely valuable, as long as I can get my hands on a Suunto watch.
Do you have any contacts on the island at all?
Not as yet. I do have a meeting this week with a friend of a friend whose dad used to work there. I've also tried to contact the local tourist office and newspaper but as yet have had no luck.
Sounds like you're seriously under-prepared. Do you think you've got any chance of surviving the course?
Sure! Maybe 40%. That's pretty good, right?
Supposing you live, would you consider holding the event again next year?
If it turns out to be a popular event, and the locals don't mind, and someone else organises it, and I get royalties, and no-one ever beats my time, then sure!
Dan after running to the centre of The Labyrinth, Overland Track, Tasmania