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Kiwi runner finishes epic 6500km run the length of NZ and Australia

A Kiwi ultra runner has just crossed the finish line after running the length of New Zealand and Australia.

Curly Jacobs, 62, reached the finish today after a 6500km run – 2000km from Stewart island to Cape Reinga, 4000km from Hobart through the arid centre of Australia to Darwin and a few other trips along the way.

The run was a way for the Waikato man to test himself but he also raised thousands of dollars for organisations dedicated to improving the lives of schoolchildren in both countries who live in poverty and go to school hungry.

He started his run at the bottom of NZ, on Stewart Island in November 2023, and had reached Cape Reinga by New Year’s Day. Read about his NZ run here. After a short break he headed to Australia, beginning the second leg of his run in Darwin, averaging 62km a day and finishing up in Darwin today.

His run included the notorious Stuart Highway, which passes through the sparsely populated red centre of Australia.

Jacobs told the Waikato Herald it had been a wild experience, and he soon learned to keep his distance from the local wildlife.

“There was a snake near Tennant Creek that I thought was dead, so I thought I’d drag it off the road because wedge-tail eagles swoop down to feed on dead things, but then (the snake) turned around and looked at me.”

Long-distance ultra runner Curly Jacobs, catches the glowing sunrise on the rail line of The Gap, in Alice Springs. Photo / Dan Baldwin
Long-distance ultra runner Curly Jacobs, catches the glowing sunrise on the rail line of The Gap, in Alice Springs. Photo / Dan Baldwin

At this point, he jumped back some metres and watched it slither off the road.

“(My favourite part in Australia would be) Coober Pedy. (It’s) amazing for the landscape, but the last 50km of Alice Springs was the best …. there was the most spectacular sunrise leaving Alice.

“Katherine (was) hot and steamy. The weather gods played their part with largely side(winds) to tailwinds all the way up the Stuart Highway.”

Jacobs said he received a lot of support and gained plenty of support from Stuart Highway motorists.

“Hundreds upon hundreds of toots (from people), and (some) people stopped to give me water and cold drinks.

“(I would) find fruit on the road (and eat it) near border changes where quarantine measures are in place, particularly in South Australia (areas).

“I’ve become a regular on the highway with the same huge road trains passing me a couple of times a week on the scheduled return journeys.”

He said his crew enjoyed hearing truckies say, “We saw him weeks ago, what on earth is he doing out here.”

Every 8-10km of his 62km per day, Jacobs’ two-person crew Sandy and Dan would fuel him up with food, which was followed by a brief rest. After covering 30-40km, Jacobs would power nap for 20 minutes.

Sandy said they went through a 15kg box of bananas, 2kg of honey, 1kg of raw sugar, 1.5kg of rolled oats, six 1.5-litre bottles of iced tea, several tins of fruit salad, pineapple and spaghetti, and a bottle of Maximus sports drink a day last month.

Jacobs’ Australia leg run began with a flight to Hobart, a run across Tasmania to Devonport, then a ferry ride to Geelong. He ran from Geelong (Victoria) through South Australia to Port Augusta, then to the Kulgera Roadhouse in Ghan, on to Coober Pedy, then to the Northern Territory of Alice Springs North, and finished in Darwin.

Curly Jacobs reaches Taupō as he runs the length of New Zealand and Australia. Photo / Dan Hutchinson
Curly Jacobs reaches Taupō as he runs the length of New Zealand and Australia. Photo / Dan Hutchinson

Jacobs aimed to reach Darwin in time for his son Finley’s 8th birthday, which he succeeded at. Finley was also a big inspiration to the promoted cause for his lengthy run – KidsCan Charitable Trust.

“It really came about because of Finn. Started hearing more about kids going to school with an empty tummy. I can’t run on an empty tummy and kids can’t learn on an empty tummy,” he said.

Thinking he was going to the Auckland airport to meet dad at the end of his epic run, Finley was surprised to hop on a plane with mum and meet Jacobs at the finish line in Darwin.

Jacobs is supporting a similar charity in Australia with all proceeds raised staying in their respective countries.

With a goal of 5 million, he has a Givealittle page which people can still donate to here, and an Instagram and Facebook account so people can look back at his journey.

Curly Jacobs and his son Finley (middle), with Jacob's two-person crew Dan Baldwin (left) and Sandy de la Mare (right), at the finish line of the Australian leg, and his full journey.
Curly Jacobs and his son Finley (middle), with Jacob’s two-person crew Dan Baldwin (left) and Sandy de la Mare (right), at the finish line of the Australian leg, and his full journey.

Malisha Kumar is a multimedia journalist based in Hamilton. She joined the Waikato Herald in 2023 after working for Radio 1XX in Whakatāne.

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