Nine and a half marathons in nine days through a range of testing terrain plus a 145-kilometre kayaking mission in the mix – this is the challenge three running adventurers have set themselves this coming November as they attempt to run New Zealand’s nine `Great Walks‘ in as many days.
Even for New Zealand – the spiritual home of adventure racing and a mecca for trail running enthusiasts from around the world – this is an extreme undertaking, and one that’s never before been attempted.
The walks aren’t called great for nothing. The trails range from 32 kilometres to 78 kilometres in length, and one of the nine isn’t a walk at all – it’s a 145-kilometre kayaking route. All are intended to be multiday experiences. If you were to attempt them back to back, the minimum period you’d be advised to allow would be 28 days, not including travel time between trailheads.
To do this in just nine days will involve running over 400 kilometres and paddling 145 kilometres, through some of New Zealand’s most epic landscapes, in highly unpredictable conditions, while fighting sleep deprivation, negotiating logistical hurdles and battling with physical exhaustion.
The team, known for their previous record-setting adventure running Australia’s eight highest peaks, are Ben Southall, Luke Edwards and Patrick Kinsella – collectively known as the Global Adventurers. Their expedition, dubbed the NZ9 Project, has been made possible due to support from Tourism New Zealand, Britz Campervans and New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC), who manage the nine Great Walks.
“We are excited to see this world record attempt happen in New Zealand,” said Kevin Bowler, Chief Executive of Tourism New Zealand. “We have commissioned the production of a documentary to capture the attempt and will then use the footage captured to showcase the natural beauty and diversity of New Zealand’s Nine Great Walks in the work we do to motivate travellers to come here.”
Ben Southall admits: “This is the most physically challenging expedition I have ever planned, by far. There is no current record for this challenge so I’m excited by the adventure that lays in wait for us.”
The nearest achievement to date has been by Trail Run Mag‘s one-time NZ editor, Mal Law, who made his name running seven of the Great Walks in seven days.
Starting on 8th November, the team’s ambitious itinerary will take them from South to North. They’ll kick off with the Rakiura Track (32km) on remote Stewart Island, before running the Routeburn (32km), Milford (53.5km), Kepler (60km), Heaphy (78.4) and Abel Tasman (55.2km) tracks on the South Island, and then doing the Whanhanui River Journey (145km), Tongariro Northern Circuit (43km), and Lake Waikaremoana (46km) on the North Island.
“We are all average blokes,” says Patrick. “All of us have families, jobs and life commitments – but what we aim to do through NZ9 and our documentary is to show people that, no matter how busy life gets of what challenges you might be facing, you can always find time to get outdoors. And there’s no better setting than New Zealand to illustrate how fantastic nature’s gym is.”
Over the past six months, Ben, Luke and Patrick have been preparing with gruelling training sessions – the ups and downs of which have been covered live on the Global Adventurers Facebook Page. Followers can continue to ‘go on the adventure’ with the lads, once their world record attempt kicks off on the 8th November, by checking out their Facebook Page and website: www.theglobaladventurers.com
For more information regarding walking and hiking in New Zealand please visit http://www.newzealand.com/au/multi-day-hikes/