From first light this morning 1200 walkers were due to begin a 100km walk throughout the Taupo region in the annual Oxfam Trailwalker.
The event involves teams of four people running or walking a 100km off-road trail in 36 hours and raising money to help some of the world's most vulnerable people.
The Oxfam Trailwalker is described as the most life-changing, team building, foot slogging, friendship forming and group hugging experience you will ever take on.
"It's a special event because each step that people take makes a real difference for people in extreme poverty," said Jason Garman, the communications and media manager for Oxfam NZ. The event, which began in New Zealand in 2006 with 750 participants, has grown over the years.
It has earned the reputation as an ultimate physical and mental test of endurance and a great way to fundraise for the charity Oxfam.
The Oxfam Trailwalker first started as a training exercise for the elite Queen's Gurkha Signals Regiment in Hong Kong in 1981.
Since then, it has grown into the charity's biggest fundraising event and now happens annually in 11 countries.
"The funds that Oxfam Trailwalker teams raise have a huge impact on the lives of people living in poverty in the developing world," said Garman. "Communities are able to build clean water supplies, families learn how to grow more food, women are protected from violence, children are given the chance at an education, and survivors of cyclones, droughts and other disasters can rebuild their lives."
The 100km walk is divided into seven stages and all four members must complete the walk together.
Jacquie Heath is the team leader of the BDOlympians who are making their debut in the event this week.
"We are feeling a bit nervous to be honest, because we know it is going to be a big challenge," said the 27-year-old accountant. "We have done a lot of training, walked 50km together and been away on a training weekend. We have a few niggles but we are as prepared as we are going to be."
Heath believed that the toughest part of the Trailwalker was going to be coping with tiredness.
"I think the sleep deprivation will take its toll and emotions will be running high," she said. "My boyfriend is one of our team members which could make it interesting. But we have grown a lot as a team in our training. We have got to know each other really well and we are determined to deal with whatever comes up together. Everyone will get through to the end." Heath said they have been advised that the role of the support crew was vitally important.
Garman explained the support team meets their teams at each of the seven checkpoints along the course. They cook them food, give massages, offer up fresh socks, refill drink bottles and most importantly, give encouragement. Having a support crew is a requirement to enter the event.
Heath is up for the challenge and is gearing up for a fine but cold weekend in Taupo. "It is pretty daunting when you start out but walking 100km is achievable. We can't wait to get into it and to reach the finish on Sunday will be a pretty special feeling."
When: Today and tomorrow
What: Walking a 100km off-road trail in teams of four in 36 hours to raise money for Oxfam.
For more information visit: www.oxfamtrailwalker.org.nz