Matt Rayner - Blog
25 February 2021
This time next week I will be in the North of the South island, hiking south. Five week hiking in backcountry New Zealand should be an incredible experience! I expect to put updates on Instagram around once a week and I will be using my satellite tracker, so you will be able to follow my live location through a link that I will provide - probably on my Instagram bio.

The past month has been a month of preparation for this hike. Getting all the gear I need and making sure it's going to work by going on test hikes. It has been years since I did any serious hiking, it's going to be nice to get back into it. I have also had to change my mindset about this hike. Initially I marketed this adventure to myself as a run through the spine of the country. Realism set in when I tried running with my pack on my back. It's only 33 litres (most multi-day hiking packs are 60+ litres) but still weighs a fair bit once you add water and 7 days of food. My body just isn't happy with that weight swinging around on my back, literally tearing my shoulders off. So, I am hiking - but as the adventure goes on I plan to run a little bit and then a little bit more. Building up my strength, getting used to the feeling of running with a heavy bag. Maybe by the end I will be "fastpacking", but it's fine if I am not.

This last Saturday I was proud to be part of the volunteering team for the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon. For the 10th year Queenstown, or more accurately Ben Lomond station, was host to a mountain marathon with some serious beauty and gnarly climbing. This year the race included a 56km ultra marathon with around 4,000 metres vertical ascent. I was the forerunner - running ahead of the runners making sure the signage was sufficient and the route clear of obstacles. I ran the required 20km (until the ultra marathon route merged with the marathon route) with no issues. No-one overtook me and all the signage was in place. I then was able continue running for as much of the rest of the route as I wished to do. I ran in total 50km, but at a super relaxing pace. The hills were brutal but when I didn't mind stopping for 30 minutes at every aid station it really wasn't too hard. It was a very hot day, certainly over 30 degrees. A lot of people were suffering. Heat, hills and sketchy trails leads to burns, cramps and falls. One poor girl lost her footing on a thin water race trail and sprained her knee pretty badly. One guy arrived into the second-to-last aid station (top of a nasty hill) and poured two large jugs of ice cold water over his head. I ran the final 8km with this guy, chatting to him. By the finish line he had changed completely and was running away from me with ease. This event was a huge amount of fun and I am so glad I reached out to get involved.

I finally got involved with a running group in Queenstown. My experience with running groups (in the UK) has never been very good before, but so far I am enjoying this group thoroughly. We meet once a week, go for a short run and then grab a drink. The people are all nice and welcoming, and everyone is interested in the projects of others. I was able to meet the only two people who have run the Queenstown-based ultra-hilly 100 mile route that I hope to run in late 2021 and I met and chatted with a whole assortment of people who are participating in ultras, triathlons or just taking it easy right now.
View of the Shotover river from the trail
Approaching the Ben Lomond summit
Queenstown can be pretty even in the town centre
From Lake Wakatipu to Lake Hayes, from on the Remarkables
On top of a scree climb at over 2000m, below (right) is the ski field
Shotover Mountain marathon route marking,looking into Skipper's Canyon
Hello there!
Ultra marathon morning views in Ben Lomond station
Ben Lomond and Moke creek in the early hours
Te Araroa hiking supplies!