The inaugural Queenstown Mountain Run (incorporating the New Zealand Mountain Running Championships) is set to take place on May 14. Six-time World Mountain Running champion and Kiwi endurance legend Jonathan Wyatt gives us his six good reasons why the exciting new event should be in the bucket list for running enthusiasts of all levels.
With the 12km race comprising 1492m of elevation, Jonathan Wyatt who ran part of the course last November, believes runners will love the challenge and sheer beauty of the climb up Ben Lomond.
"The course itself is a very good test and similar to what you would experience at a World Championships race in terms of the difficulty, he says. "There is not too much downhill and it is a demanding, testing uphill track.
The course which starts in the city of Queenstown before quickly rising up Ben Lomond also combines a mix of single track and more open track sections which will appeal to runners.
"Having that variety really helps show off the course in the best way possible," says Jonathan. "That single track feeling really gives you a sense of having nature right next to you. However, there is still enough long track to allow people to pass and for the race to sort itself out."
While pure uphill mountain running in New Zealand is not too common, Jonathan insists this should be no bar to giving the race a crack.
"When you talk about running up a mountain it might seem an exercise in pain, but when you look at it more closely you have the advantage of finishing at the top - which is the best point in the race in terms of taking in the scenery," explains Jonathan. "You also can test yourself against the mountain. It may be daunting to be able to see the finish from the race start but to achieve it is an incredibly satisfying feeling. Another side benefit of running on an uphill gradient is you experience none of that jarring on impact that you can get from flat road running or downhill running. The runners might be struggling for the first hour or so, but the next day your muscles should feel in decent shape."
Something for everyone
The Queenstown Mountain Run offers races over a range of distances - 12km, 8km and 4km - which will appeal to runners of all standards, insists Jonathan.
"This allows people to pick and choose the distance and challenge to suit them," he adds.
Yet for those who want to there is also the option to enter one of the NZ Mountain Running Championship events (open men 12km open women, masters men, masters women and junior men 8km or junior women 4km).
Jonathan believes holding the mountain run in New Zealand's adventure capital offers the perfect destination for a weekend away.
"I would say Queenstown in the autumn with all the amazing colours is the best time of the year to come," he adds. "So although the race might be your premier objective, it also offers a perfect excuse to check out the city and some of the other attractions such as the lake or nearby Arrowtown."
Spectator and athlete friendly
With the 4km point of the ascent at the Skyline Gondola, which includes restaurant area, the facility is likely to prove popular with both spectators and runners.
Those hoping to follow the action will appreciate the fact they can watch the bottom of the race in the city and then hop on the gondola to the 4km mark (the finish for the short race) as a means of tracking the action.
"Skyline brings another level of security because if the weather is not agreeable, it is great to have the facility to grab a shower and put on some warm clothes," adds Jonathan.
In another neat touch the post-race presentations will take place at Skyline.
Be part of history
Event organiser Adrian Bailey fully intends for the Queenstown Mountain Run to be here to stay - so to experience the inaugural running is not one to be missed.
He even has big ambitions for the race and hopes one day it can stage the annual World Mountain Running Championships -a prospect which excites Jonathan.
"When New Zealand previously staged the championships in Wellington 11 years ago, it was incredibly well supported and I think given the nature of the event and the experience New Zealand has of staging the championships having the event in Queenstown would work extremely well."