Afghan refugee brothers find new passion for trail running in Waikato

Three brothers who fled their home in Afghanistan have found a new life in the Waikato and a new love of trail running. 

The brothers were introduced to it by a Hamilton pastor Campbell Forlong. 

The teenagers, whose father was killed by the Taliban, are now training to run the 72km Mt Ruapehu ultra-marathon, Ring of Fire, as a relay team. 

"Any volcanoes in Kabul? None?" Mr Forlong asks the boys. "Ha! You're going to be on one."

Mr Forlong met 19-year-old Abul and 18-year-old twins Murtaza and Mujtaba through his community trust. They've now forged a friendship on Waikato's trails.

"That's the thing we have in common - we like to be outside and we like to run," Mr Forlong, director of Agora Community Trust, said. 

He's taken on an unofficial coaching role to the boys.

Mr Forlong is a "very good man, kind man", the boys say, adding that he's "always saying 'come on guys, don't be lazy'."

But they're far from lazy - all three brothers have building jobs after arriving just three years ago as refugees from Afghanistan. 

And they still carry some fond memories of home. 

"When we were in Afghanistan, we had a lot of friends and we were playing football," said Murtaza. 

Abul said, "Every time you're hearing bad news, like a bomb exploding or fighting, and if we were there we didn't have any future."

After their father was killed by the Taliban, the boys' mother took the family to Pakistan, where they spent two years living in hiding.

The boys are softly spoken, but when asked about running - they all light up. 

Mujtaba talks about finishing his first marathon despite terrible blisters.

"After 30km I got blisters - that was really hard for me," he said. "I did run a little bit slow." 

The Ring of Fire ultra-marathon is said to be one of the toughest trail running events in New Zealand. 

"They're good scramblers," said Mr Forlong. "They're strong; they can do the long stuff. The more rugged it is, the better they'll actually do."

They're running in a relay team - 24km each - perfect for three brothers who don't like to compete against each other. 

"I ask them who's going to win and they never want to be the winner, because they do it together," said Mr Forlong. 

Trail running may be a simple activity many New Zealanders take for granted, but for these three boys it represents so much more.