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NZ’s best set to take on gruelling ultra run but organisers hope Mother Nature will be the real winner
Arrowtown, New Zealand (29 November 2023) –It almost goes without saying that you’d need a ‘Warrant of Wildness’ if you’re planning to tackle 85km of backcountry trail running in a single day. The challenging course, which also boasts a 5000m elevation gain, is part of the Pioneer Edition of The WILD, a multi-day celebration of trail and mountain running to be held 6 – 10 December and centred around New Zealand’s trail mecca, Arrowtown.

There are five race distances on offer and none of them rank on the ‘easy’ scale. It’s not called The WILD for nothing. Over 650 people have so far signed up for the event and they’re coming from as far afield as the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. A large majority (80%) are travelling from outside the Queenstown Lakes to compete and 30% are international runners.

Top New Zealand runners, including Scott Hawker will be lining up alongside some hard-charging international talent like the USA’s Bryon Powell, Meghan Hicks and Eszter Horanyi who are all multiple Hardrock 100 Endurance Run finishers.

It’s an impressive start list and just who will take out the inaugural titles is already under hot debate but more about that later because, as founder Malcolm Law is keen to underline, The WILD is more than just a race.

Owned and organised by the Wild for Nature Charitable Trust, a portion of the proceeds from the event will be used to fund native habitat restoration projects in the area.

“Our goal is to mobilise the running community to become involved in native habitat restoration work (rewilding), particularly in the areas through which The WILD sends runners,” Law explains.

“In our first few months we have stripped out hundreds of wilding pines and planted 500 beech trees in backcountry areas, work that has taken several hundred hours’ effort by a few dozen of our running whānau.

“As part of The WILD we are encouraging participants to give up a few hours to help with more wilding pine control in the area immediately behind Arrowtown. The Trust aims to double the number of native trees that we plant each year and become a catalyst for rewilding consciousness amongst runners from all around NZ.”

A passionate adventurer and trail runner for most of his life, Law has also channelled his energy into raising funds for good causes. He has raised close to a million dollars for the Mental Health Foundation NZ, and the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation through endeavours such as running New Zealand’s seven mainland Great Walks in just seven days and knocking off 50 classic NZ peaks in 50 days.

Law won’t be on the start line this time around but will be there at the finish cheering his fellow runners home. Those taking on the V5000 85km ultra will be especially glad when that finish line finally comes into view – the fastest are expected to make it in 12 hours but many will be closer to the 24-hour cut off. This is where the ‘Warrant of Wildness’ comes in to play. As the website says, this one is for “diehard mountain ultra runners’ and you won’t make the start line, let alone the finish, unless you can prove you’ve had adequate experience in the backcountry.

Kiwis Shaun Collins and Ian Evans, two of only four people ever to finish the Revenant ultra, have the pedigree while Arrowtown’s Benje Patterson will also be a top contender with local knowledge a strong advantage along with the confidence of a fifth-place finish at the Ultra-Trail Australia (UTA) 100km race earlier this year. Kiwi pro Scott Hawker finished third at the iconic UTMB in France in 2019 and is sure to set a fast pace.

Look out for Australian rep Nicole Paton to give Hicks and Horanyi a run for their money in the women’s V5000 event. Queenstown’s Maureen Stachowicz came close to beating all the men at the Shotover Moonlight this year and is another one to watch alongside adventure racer Ali Wilson and Wellington-based ultra running legend Jean Beaumont.

In the V3000 (64km, 3000m elevation gain) all eyes are on Vajin Armstrong who has 10 top-five-finishes at the Kepler Challenge, including three wins, to his name; and Katie Wright, the first female winner of a Backyard Ultra ‘last person standing’ race anywhere in the world who was also a top-20-finisher at UTMB this year.


The V1600 is proving the most popular distance – a ‘mere’ 30kms with a 1600m elevation gain. Look out for Helene Barron, third female at the Tarawera Ultra 100 mile this year, to put up a strong fight for this one.

Wānaka’s Sammy Burke, back home from an athletics scholarship in the States, will be one to watch on the Beast of Brow. The 11km distance is “for all mountain lovers” but mostly those who can make short work of the 1050m uphill climb.

At 9km, the Beast of Beetham is the shortest race distance but that’s still 550m uphill (then downhill) to contend with. 11-year-old Spike Hayvice is up for the challenge and will be running alongside his mum, elite competitor Fiona Hayvice.

The WILD has attracted entries from people of all ages, Spike being the youngest and 74-year-old local woman Robina Bodle who is competing in the Beast of Brow, the oldest.

The race schedule kicks off on Friday 8 December with the Beast of Beetham followed by the longer distances on Saturday and V5000 competitors first out on course at 6am. The finish line will finally close at 6am on Sunday.

The wider event schedule, underway from Wednesday 6 December, also includes film and guest speaker sessions. NZ elite Anna Frost, legendary Kiwi mountain goat and two times winner of the Hardrock 100 will be sharing her story. While not competing at The WILD, Frost has coached some of the runners and is looking forward to supporting their hard work and commitment.

“Mal is a very good friend of mine,” she explains. “I have watched him dream of this event for years, since we went on an adventure around the mountains of Colorado where the Hardrock100 race is. I think The WILDis a great event, with a lot of passion poured into it, and I am so excited to see it run this year.

“I have been around the course and I think it’s fabulous and I am looking forward to being part of this running community.”

Competitors will have the chance to get involved with the native habitat restoration project by joining the Wild for Nature Trustees and local group Arrowtown Choppers on Thursday 7 December on the trails near Arrowtown to help these efforts along.

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