A mountain running event through stunning Otago backcountry later this year is set to attract some of the world’s top ultra-runners.
Inspired by the Hardrock 100 in the USA, The WILD is a multi-day event comprising five mountain runs for runners of varied experience levels.
Based in Arrowtown, New Zealand’s trail running Mecca, the event runs from December 6-10. It includes races ranging from a 9km long ‘taster’ featuring a 550m climb, to the V5000 for diehard mountain ultra runners — 86km of true backcountry experience with multiple peaks and 5050m of ascent through incredible terrain.
While all courses start and finish in the heart of Arrowtown at Butlers Green, spectacular routes include everything from Brow Peak overlooking Arrowtown and the Wakatipu Basin, Vanguard Peak, Mt Dewar, and Advance Peak, to Greengates, Skippers Road and the historic goldfields area of Macetown.
The event has attracted world number one female ultra-runner Courtney Dauwalter from the USA. She’s notched up multiple wins in prestigious races including the 100 miler titles Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (2019 and 2020), Hardrock 100 (2022), Western States Endurance Run (2018 and 2023) and New Zealand’s 100k Tarawera Ultramarathon (2019) among many others.
Courtney and husband Kevin Schmidt will run the V5000 race together on Saturday December 9 and will be in Arrowtown for the duration of the event, which includes film nights screening The Trail Running Film Festival and speaker events.
Also attending the event and a contender for the V5000 is Anna Frost, one of New Zealand’s best ultra trail runners. Frost is also a winner of the USA’s challenging Hardrock 100 miler in 2015 and 2016 and as a professional mountain, trail and ultra runner has raced all over the world in every distance and terrain possible.
Other strong contenders in the women’s V5000 are Nicole Paton who represented Australia in the recent World Mountain & Trail Running Championship in Austria and Queenstown’s Veronika Palockova who won this year’s Northburn 100k.
The men’s field in the V5000 is still wide open with top contenders still to put their name in the ring, but New Zealanders will be cheering on economist Benje Patterson from Arrowtown who placed 5th at the UTA 100k in May and Sam Mowat from Christchurch who won this year’s Shotover Moonlight Ultra.
Runners registered to date are coming from as far afield as the USA, UK, Australia, South Africa, the Czech Republic and Germany.
Other races being held on Saturday December 9 include the V3000 (64kms), the V1600 (30kms), The Beast of Brow (11kms), and Friday night’s Beast of Beetham (9km). The ‘V’ refers to the amount of vertical ascent in each race.
Current red-hot favourite for the men’s V3000 is Christchurch’s Chris Dunell who has twice placed second at the Queenstown Half Marathon.
Event Director and Wanaka running legend Mal Law describes The WILD as his “passion project”, one that’s been five years in the making following a heart-breaking last-minute cancellation last year due to an event company liquidation.
While many were left out of pocket, including Law himself, several hundred runners have already entered this year’s event.
The WILD is organised by the Wild For Nature Charitable Trust, established by Law and a group of six trustees, all passionate about protecting the environment they love to run in. The event includes a ‘working bee’ control session where runners will help remove wilding pines from the area, and 5% of all entry fees will go to its planting fund to source native seedlings.
Law says each course is epic, and hopes runners will focus not on the distance, but the journey.
“These courses are tough and challenging, but runners will be highly rewarded with outstanding views and a real sense of accomplishment,” he says.
“Putting on The WILD has tested my resilience like nothing else, but I’ve never stopped believing we’re creating a thing of sublime beauty that will thrill, challenge and inspire a huge number of people for many years to come.
“I can’t wait to see everyone in Arrowtown in December.”
For more information and to register go to www.thewild100.org