Chris Dunell

Chris Dunell with his dog on the port hills

History of Running

Bare with me while I rattle this brain cage… um, I guess I first discovered a thirst for running after winning my primary school cross country at the Windsor Pony Club; what then seemed like a tough, muddy undulating course riddled with ankle breaking terrain, a total of 2km  and running on pure natural ability. No fancy running schedules, split times or elevation gains. Training consisted of running to the dairy in bare feet and playing bulrush. I was 8 years old. Who knew then what was to come….

Chris Dunell running the streets of ChristchurchMy lack of interest to play any team sport prompted my parents to sign me up to the local harriers club, QE Athletic. I ran numerous seasons and had a few successes along the way. I ran cross country in the winter and ran track and field during the summer. I was fortunate enough to have some great competition whilst growing up, the likes of Hayden Mclaren and Adam Odering to name a couple. We used to battle it out week in and week out. The competition was fierce even at that age. When I think about it now, it kept me honest and somewhat out of trouble.

A short time later, I met my coach Don Greig. He changed my world and taught me attributes that have proven their worth even today. Dedication, passion and structure. He’s a hard bastard and was one hell of a runner (2:13 marathon) . I still train with Don when I’m focusing on 10km events and half marathon distance. He’s old school and is willing to help anyone who wants to help themselves. We have a great little training group aptly named The ‘DGRS’ or Don Greig Racing Stables. We typically meet 3 – 4 times a week and travel to many races together.

Don helped train me through high school where I was hot and cold. I guess I never really gave it my all and then I discovered cricket which stole my interest for the next few years. I remained fit during these years but never took my running seriously. I then joined the New Zealand Police and developed this idea that I had to be the bulkiest man alive. I ate like a glutton and lifted weights, smashed protein shakes, Creatine, you name it. I just wanted to be big. I managed to reach 78kg and still tilted over in a stiff breeze.

It wasn’t until I went overseas I went for a run along a beach in Nga Trang, Vietnam that I found my love for running Chris Dunell on Christchurch beachagain. Over the next few years I dabbled with the running again. Not overly serious and likely to quit if I became injured. It’s only in the last 2 years that I have become what I would deem to be a serious runner. I’ve trained my ass off at times and have managed a few wins/podiums in some neat races around the country. I’ve been very lucky to have picked up three sponsors this year with CEP sports New Zealand, Tailwind Nutrition NZ and ENDURObeet. Having these guys/brands backing me has certainly made me go the extra mile, I’m forever grateful. I live and breathe the running now and want to push my own limitations as far as I can….

Catalyst to Interest in Trail/Ultra

I can’t directly pinpoint a moment when I discovered that I enjoyed trail running more. Coming from a road running background I guess, the variety, terrain is so different. I suppose the trail is where you can ultimate escape to an extent. No cars/ less people kinda thing. I found I was able to take my speed to the trails which I think aided me in some of the races I’ve done. I think ultimately the trail runner has a more spiritual sense to them, I certainly feel closer to the earth running off road. I feel more primitive in a way and I like that feeling after being stuck in a very vanilla office 40 hours+ a week. The trail is never dull and forever changing, it provides a pleasant spontaneity opposed to its regimented tarmac cousin.

Don’t get me wrong, I still do a lot of my workouts on road where I’m a slave to split times etc, but if I ever have an easy run I’ll always find myself trying to find a new track in the Port Hills.

Chris Dunell racing in the Naseby Ultra marathon
Running the Naseby 50km 2016

Ultras? Something I’m very new to. I’ve been inspired by my childhood friend Scott Hawker and reading books by Dean Karnases, Scott Jurek and Christopher Mcdougall.

I’ve actually only completely my first certified ultra, two months ago at The Great Naseby Water Race. I ran the 50km on a bit of a whim really. I haven’t had the best year due to an ankle/foot injury and had already decided to act as support crew for a friend who had signed up for the 100mile for the third year in a row. After competing in the teams’ event last year (2 person 30km each) I knew it would be tough to go down and not run. So I crammed some training in and was able to nail a 25km run a week before the event. I told myself that I could try and run to 30km and if my foot got too sore I’d just pull out.  A few pain killers, some strapping tape and a good mindset got me through the next 4 hours and 50km.(stay tuned for a post race report) Technically this is my *Max Distance to Date. This type of distance has definitely opened up the ultra account and I can see myself going longer one day soon. I already have my eyes on Kepler 2017 and perhaps one of the Tarawera ultra options in 2018.

Day to day life

Being a shift worker with the New Zealand Police certainly allows me to have a huge variety in my day to day life. Sometimes the only thing I can be sure of is what I’m having for dinner that night. This sort of environment I think is healthy but I do welcome structure whenever it presents itself. Of late however, I have found some structure working in the Youth Crime Unit based at the Christchurch Central Police Station. The hours are good and I get most weekends off these days which is great as I have a wonderful fiancé, mother, father, sister and plenty of good mates living in Christchurch that I like to catch up with. So in a nut shell I train/work/train/eat/sleep… something like that anyway.

Chris Dunell running Godley Head

Training Days

I train pretty much everyday, sometimes twice a day. Depending on what race is next on the calendar will dictate what type of training I’ll do but usually I stick to a game plan which has 2 long slow runs (normally hills) (30km) , a tempo based workout at stead state, a workout at the end of the week focused on speed and easy running in between.

I sometimes swim on my easy day or rest day and I’ll use the gym at work for glute and core exercises once or twice a week. I also have implemented some drills/strideouts into my week and have just introduced the use of speed bands.

I really enjoy trying new workouts whether it is some form of hill repeats with tempo introduction to simulate race conditions or it’s the trusty 1 km reps just to see where I’m at. I think it’s important to mix it up if you can and keep it fresh. Make running part of your commute, we’re all busy and one less car on road is sexy for the environment plus they are bonus miles really.

Goals for future and planned running events 

My goals for the future include, running a sub 70minute half marathon, a sub 2:25 marathon. I would like to enter some new events in 2017 and place in the top 5 at Kepler. I want to keep influencing others to exercise and adopt healthier lifestyles. If you’re ever in Christchurch hit me up on @chris_dunell (Instagram account) or Facebook Chris Dunell and we’ll organise a run together.

My Tentative plan for the 12months looks something like this…

  • Abel Tasman Coastal Classic
  • Boulder Bay Classic
  • Selwyn Running Festival 10km
  • Queenstown Half Marathon
  • Shoe clinic 5km series
  • Tussock Traverse
  • Buller Gorge Half Marathon
  • Alpine Loop the Lake
  • Christchurch Half Marathon
  • Gold Coast Half Marathon
  • Captain Cooks Landing
  • Naseby 50km
  • Kepler
  • Tarawera

Watch this space.

Sponsor Plug:

I’m no pro I’m just a good honest kiwi bloke who loves to run and have a laugh. It’s that simple!!!

I have been lucky enough to obtain sponsorship with 3 really awesome companies. I’ve surrounded myself with these brands and labels because I believe their products are better than anything else on the market. I use their gear because it works. If you have any questions about the CEP gear range, Tailwind or Endurobeet products, please contact me and I’ll give you an honest, no bullshit answer 😉