Crew Member Speaks Out: Perry Newburn’s New Zealand Run Was A Lie

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In November, 64 year old Perry Newburn embarked on an attempt to break Siggy Bauer’s 43 year old record by running across New Zealand in 18 days.

Prior to this attempt, he claims to have run across the United States at the age of 60, in a Masters  record of 51 days, 16 hours and 40 minutes, beating a record formerly held by Marshall Ulrich. He also is said to have run the perimeter of New Zealand. He had attempted this record once before, only to be derailed by bad weather.

To break the record for the fastest crossing of New Zealand, Perry needed to average over 70 miles per day. Perry was running to support Running on The Spectrum, a charity dedicated to helping children with Autism.

There was no real time tracking for the run. Perry did not even wear a GPS watch.

“He kept his pace in his head rather than using a fancy GPS watch.” – Nick Perry, Associated press

It was a tedious process attempting to recreate his journey. Through the irregular Facebook updates, below is my best estimate of his daily mileage throughout the journey.

Day Start Finish daily km daily miles total miles miles remaining avg miles per day needed
3-Nov Cape Reinga Kaitaia 111 69 69 1200 69.2
4-Nov Kaitaia Kawakawa 99 62 130 1139 69.7
5-Nov Kawakawa Waipu Cove 101 63 193 1076 70.2
6-Nov Waipu Cove Kumeo 124 77 270 999 69.7
7-Nov Kumeo Pokeno 74 46 316 953 71.5
8-Nov Pokeno Matamata 112 70 386 883 71.6
9-Nov Matamata North of Taupo 101 63 449 820 72.4
10-Nov North of Taupo Waioru 131 81 530 739 71.5
11-Nov Waioru Hunterville 75.5 47 577 692 74.2
12-Nov Hunterville Otaki 110 68 645 624 74.8
13-Nov Otaki Blenheim 114.2 71 716 553 75.4
14-Nov Blenheim Kaikoura 128 80 796 473 74.7
15-Nov Kaikoura Amberley 134 83 879 390 73.1
16-Nov Amberley Rakaia 99.6 62 941 328 75.7
17-Nov Rakaia Timaru 105 65 1006 263 78.9
18-Nov Timaru Palmerston 143 89 1095 174 74.6
19-Nov Palmerston Mosgiel 63.8 40 1135 134 100.8
20-Nov Mosgiel 0 1135
21-Nov Bluff 216 134 1269 0 0.0

From the beginning, he was under his needed pace. He was never on target after the first day, until he finished his run in Bluff on November 20th. Perry claimed a finish of 18 days, 8 hours and 42 minutes, breaking the previous record by just over 15 minutes. Note that the chart I’ve attached does not include the distance covered by the ferry between the North and South Islands. The 1300 + miles that was typically cited in articles about his run include the distance traveled by ferry.

 

For about a week, Perry was claiming the record. However 8 days after completing his run, Perry announced that he would not claim the record.

The statement indicates that Perry only was driven over portions where traffic or road conditions were extremely unsafe.

More To The Story

Graeme Calder initially offered to support Perry for this attempt but Perry never got back to Graeme. Graeme then received a call from the sponsor on Saturday November 10th. The planned support crew fell through and the sponsor asked Graeme to support Perry on the South Island.

Graeme Calder took over as crew for Perry for the last leg of The North Island, and the entirety of the South Island.

Graeme met Perry on Tuesday morning at Waikanae after meeting Kashif earlier that morning.

Tuesday, November 13th (Day 11)

The initial challenge was that Perry had to catch the ferry to keep on schedule. It was going to be tight for Perry to meet the approximate 5:00 PM deadline to arrive at the ferry. If he were to miss the ferry, it would cause a 12 hour delay.

Graeme drove ahead with the intention of getting the car on the ferry. He was then informed that Perry had to be there earlier than was expected.  Graeme told me that he “phoned the squad driver, and to my surprise, Perry’s already in the car…and was being driven the last 10km in order to catch the ferry. “That was the first time I knew that he was driven any distance, apart from being driven over any very narrow bridges that were considered dangerous.”

“I questioned him about that on the ferry…he said that would not be a problem and that he would do a 10km loop on the South Island just to make up the distance.”

Graeme relayed that he was uncomfortable with this, because if Perry missed the ferry, the next ferry was half a day later.

Graeme messaged the sponsor, who “did not seem too phased by it”

They got off the ferry in Picton, and the plan was to run to Blenheim where they had a place to stay. At this point it was late at night. They did not run to Blenheim that night, but shortly after arriving in Picton, they drove to Blenheim. Graeme made note of where they stopped with the intent of returning to that point the next morning.

If Perry’s estimates are correct, of the 128 kilometers that Perry logged that day, he was driven at least 60.

Wednesday, November 14th (Day 12)

They got up early the next morning, and Perry instructed Graeme to pull over about 30 kilometers short of where he had finished running the day before. Perry then proceeded to start running, cutting 30km off the route.

Perry was “in a real bad way” after the long day the day before. Cell service was poor and Graeme left Perry to drive to the coast to arrange accommodation. When he drove back to Perry, Graeme picked him up and drove to the coast (approximately 30 kilometers). Perry continued running and Graeme drove to Kaikoura to finalize the arangements. On returning to Perry,  Graeme picked him up and they drove the approximate 30 kilometers back to Kaikoura.

Once again in the morning, they did not drive back to where they finished, but Perry instead started his run in Kaikoura cutting an additional 30 kilometers off of his run.

To this point, according to Graeme they shorted approximately 100 kilometers sover the two days since Graeme started his support of Perry.  Graeme also relayed that there was one point on The North Island that he learned Perry did was driven for a significant distance.

He says he spoke to others that supported him, and that the woman that supported him for the first couple of days, was unwilling to comment on whether he was driven any distance during her time. Perry says that she left earlier than planned and was only with him for a couple of days. After the first two days she didn’t want any more to do with it according to Perry.

After the first day,  Graeme refused to keep the log of the run.

After the 2nd day, Graeme told Perry that he was not going to post the start and end points on the Facebook page. I can attest to the fact that this was the point where it became impossible to piece together Perry’s daily claimed mileage. Graeme provided me with the start and end points.

Graeme did post videos so that “the money would keep coming in”.  Graeme said he continued to post on his personal page. At the end of the run, Graeme posted the below picture.

“He achieved what he wanted”

Graeme posted the photo with the caption, “He achieved what wanted” and mention of the record.

Justification for Supporting The Run

Graeme reported that Perry is a difficult person to work with and a difficult person to talk to. Graeme said that he never had a ‘proper conversation’ with Perry.

He felt that there was no way Perry would claim the record. Another reason that Graeme was not more vocal at this point was that the charity ‘was very close to my heart’ and the donations were increasing as the run went on.

“At this point, I’m getting pretty pissed off at the whole thing, and I’m trying to decide what to do”. “He’s raising a lot of money for a really worthwhile charity, if he doesn’t claim the record, I can live with this. If he comes out clean, if he fakes an injury, or just runs out of time and doesn’t achieve the record then O.k. I’m comfortable, I’m not happy with what he’s doing but I’m comfortable that the charity is going to come out of this and benefit.”

“If he doesn’t claim the record, I can live with this”

“He’s raising a lot of money for a really worthwhile charity, if he doesn’t claim the record, I can live with this. If he comes out clean, if he fakes an injury, or just runs out of time and doesn’t achieve the record then O.k. I’m comfortable, I’m not happy with what he’s doing but I’m comfortable that the charity is going to come out of this and benefit.”

“It Kept Continuing, Getting Worse”

“It kept on continuing, getting worse. The people we were staying with, he was lying about what he was doing, where we finished, where we started, times, distances” He was making out that he was running 110..115 even 120ks a day when he wasn’t even coming close to that. His best day…was about 85k.”

“He was also incredibly demanding and incredibly rude with some of the people we were staying with. His lies were just increasingly constantly. To me he was bathing in the glory of what people think he was achieving.”

“It is more than being addicted to the running. I think he is really addicted to the publicity and the people complimenting him on what he’s done and the likes he gets on Facebook…he bathes in the glory of it all.”

“The driving just increased and increased. Whether he was wanting to be driven so he would break the record…is not a simple answer. I personally don’t think it ever started with the idea that he would break the record.”

“The last day he certainly went all out to claim the record, that’s where I had the major problem. Whether he just got caught up in the day or that’s what he wanted to do all along, I don’t know.”

“He had to be driven those distances because there was no way he was capable of running those distances on those days. In order to cover the distances he was claiming he would need to run 25 hours a day.

“He was smoking constantly. He tried to hide the smoking initially. He was making out he was someone different than he was. I wished I was never involved in it. If he had to run all the distances that he was driven, I recon he would have missed the record by 3 to 4 days. Personally I don’t think he had another three days left in him.”

He was smoking constantly. He tried to hide the smoking initially. He was making out he was someone different than he was. I wished I was never involved in it.

Graeme said that Perry did finish strong at the end and that he looked very strong to everyone. But he was shattered when he finished.

“Once I realized he was claiming the record, I was just not impressed The tension between us started to get really uncomfortable.” They had to drive back to Palmerston We stayed at the sponsors house and the next days went our separate ways.

Perry’s Statement

Graeme had contacted 3 people, 2 of the organizers and a journalist with public relations experience to draft a press statement. The idea of the press statement was not to make Perry look bad but give him an out, still recognizing what he was done was a huge achievement, and to protect the charity.

Perry agreed that it would go out to all press and journalists that interviewed him during and after the event, published on the page and publicly on Facebook, and a public apology to everyone involved. According to Graeme, the sponsor reviewed the statement, agreed it was basically ok and and that it needed some tidying it up. Graeme thought they were fine tuning this. However a separate statement was prepared, this was the statement that was posted at the beginning of the article. The statement was not sent to any journalists.

At that point Perry and the sponsor stopped open communication with Graeme.

Graeme was especially put off by this statement. In many ways this statement made Perry look better. It looked like he barely missed the record, and only missed it due to safety concerns and a minimal amount of driving. The comments on his Facebook post and the ensuing articles were positive.

When teaching kids with autism honesty and safety are at the top of things they need.. thank you for all you have done perry

 take a Bow, you did a great feat. Running on our roads and being on our roads is more dangerous now than ever. You made the right decision and you deserve to be commended for that.

Graeme was getting contacted from people questioning the distances. After a couple weeks of this and some very personal arguments happening on line between his friends, he decided “enough was enough” and publicly posted his statement on Facebook.

Perry’s History

I looked at Perry’s history on Athlinks and ultrasignup. I wanted to see if his results in organized races provided any indication of his ability to even come close to running approximately 1300 miles in 18 days.

At the 2017 Across The Years 6 day race, he completed 200.5 miles. He stopped after about 4 1/2 days. For the 4-1/2 days, he averaged 43 miles per day.

At the 2018 Adelaide 6 day event, Perry ran 573 kilometers (356 miles). He averaged 60 miles per day.

In his two most recent events, in controlled conditions, Perry averaged no more than 60 miles per day. These results do not provide any indication that Perry was capable of averaging over 70 miles per day for over 18 days in a cross country record attempt. 

Graeme’s Involvement

I do feel it appropriate to comment on Graeme’s involvement and his ultimate decision to publicly come out with his statement. I believe Graeme was sincere and honest in our dscussions. I could tell that this was weighing heavily on him. He regrets his involvement, and I am certain if he were able to go back in time, he would have not let the deception go on for as long as it did.

The best course of action would have been for Graeme to stop supporting Perry’s behavior and to speak out publicly before Perry could claim the record. But I appreciate that Graeme ultimately made the correct decision is publicly telling his story.

Salming, NZ

I reached out to Kashif Suja of Salming for comment. He initially responded very promptly.

Hi Derek, yes I am aware of Graeme’s allegations and Perry’s run. Graeme was the only driving support crew for Perry for the South Island so would know best. However, I’m not sure about distances as Graeme himself wasn’t clear about the calculations. One thing is for sure, I wish Graeme came forward with the information when I caught up with him on the last day, before Perry finished. Rather than after Perry finished, he celebrated with him, we drove back up north together and he spent a night at mine. We could’ve advised Perry better as his support crew. Anyway, chapter long closed for us so time to move on from the disappointment. If you have any more questions, please email.

I did email Kashif for some clarification. Graeme told me that he did message Kashif after the first day when Perry was driven to the ferry. Graeme also says he was in contact Kashif after the attempt when they were working on the press release. Kashif has yet to respond to the follow up. I will provide an update if there are any initial statements.

Money Raised

The charity that was being supported was Running on The Spectrum. $7181 NZ$ (approximately $4900 USD) was raised through the donation page.

I don’t believe I can be of any help as I was only involved in so much as being the chosen charity for Perry’s Run. I do not know any more details other than what is public. Perry’s efforts have raised funds that have enabled many Autistic kids to get into running and for that I thank him.

Graeme informed me that Perry did accept some contributions that were meant to support the run itself. He did not have any idea on how much money Perry received through those contributions.

Summary

I made attempts to reach out to Perry through his personal Facebook page as well as the page dedicated to his run. I have not received any response. I also have recently reached out to the person that supported him during the United States transcon to inquire as to whether she could comment as to whether or not Perry was driven any of that distance.

I see some similarities between Perry and Rob Young. Perry overcame a serious heroin addiction, and replaced that addiction with running.Rob Young also claims to have overcome many obstacles from early on in his childhood and turned to running.

I don’t know whether Perry or Rob intended to cheat from the beginning, or if they felt pressure to achieve their goals and made poor decisions along the way. Both were running for charity. With Rob, his supporters used that as a justification and a defense for his cheating.

The reactions of the sponsors were different. Skins took the allegations of cheating very seriously. Granted the allegations were made public much earlier in Rob’s case. Salming, NZ seems more content to try to let this run it’s course and ignore the allegations made by Graeme.
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8 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting read, but needs some editing for clarity, particularly in the specific history of days once Graeme took over as support.

    • What data exactly are you looking for – average mileage before and after Graeme? Yeah, it’s in the chart – and I had to cut out a couple columns for formatting. Probably could add a chart to show that.

  2. Those aren’t easy miles either. It looks like he took SH1 most of the way, that’s a busy, windy, hilly two lane road with no road shoulder for most of the way, particularly in the North Island. I’d avoid it where possible and of course most people do nowadays with the Te Araroa trail starting and finishing at the same places – but if you want to run it in 18 days then you are committed to SH1.

  3. I am a bit puzzled as to how driving over an unsafe bridge is apparently safer than going on foot – or is the issue that these roads were driven around? As soon as I hear about multi-day attempts where the person is being driven away from the route at night I get extremely suspicious. To me you need to be scrupulous with photographic /video and GPS evidence if you are doing this.

    • The bridges aren’t unsafe because they are about to fall down or anything like that – they are unsafe for pedestrians because they are busy, have no shoulders and no way to get out of the way of traffic. On the braided rivers of Canterbury they can be over a kilometre long and it is definitely safer to be driven across rather than walking across. Of course, if you were going to “walk (or run) the whole way” maybe you’d want to choose a route that doesn’t use them.

      • OK, thanks for the explanation, it strikes me that a “clean” journey on foot would necessitate avoiding a route where this is an issue.

  4. It’s 2019. If you are going to attempt an FKT, a trans-con, or similar type of run and want any sort of legitimacy attached to your run, you NEED TO USE A GPS DEVICE. Put tape over the watch and turn off split alerts if you don’t want to be distracted or are too OG to think you need one.

    Technology has evolved to the point that any attempt that does not have corresponding, verifiable GPS data should be discounted from day dot.

Comments are closed.