Nicola Daulton would love to get out for a run more than once a week.
For now, the single working mother can lace up her shoes only each Sunday while son Thomas, 11, spends time with his father.
The 42-year-old began running in 2012 when her boss suggested they enter the Auckland Half Marathon.
What started as a way to get fit and healthy became much more for Daulton when she discovered the joy of off-road running. During the next four years, Daulton ran almost exclusively on trail, completing dozens of events and losing 30kg in the process. A hiatus in 2014 saw her fitness drop and weight start creeping up again.
"Working and being a single mum can be quite stressful - it's the yoyo journey to health," she admits. "Trail runners are the most supportive people in the world. I missed the trails, the events and the people so am back on the horse and have signed up for the XTERRA Auckland Trail Run/Walk Series."
Seven events take place in regional parks around greater Auckland each winter and Daulton cites the variety of locations as a big drawcard.
"I don't have a favourite but I do like Riverhead Forest - so much mud," she laughs.
Event manager Kezia Trask is quick to point out mud is not the only type of course on offer.
"Muddy Riverhead may not be everyone's favourite. Some prefer well-groomed and easily accessible Totara Park. Others like the rugged isolation of the Hunua and Waharau courses. This weekend's participants will be looking forward to the seascape at Shakespear - one of Auckland's hidden gems."
Daulton is pragmatic about the physical restrictions on her training as she considers the outstanding mental benefits afforded to her.
"At the moment, I am having to walk a lot but constantly set little goals for myself during the event like running a tricky downhill section or passing the person in front of me. I'm doing some strength training that is really helping my core and I know I will get fitter as the season goes on.
"For me, it's not about being fast, it's about spending time outdoors with fabulously supportive people."
Trask is proud of XTERRA's inclusive reputation.
"People sign up for different reasons - to keep fit, lose weight, for their mental health, to get five minutes with the kids or five minutes away from them! I love standing at race briefing and seeing people of all abilities and from all walks of life together in these beautiful places."
What: Off-road run, various distances
When: Sunday June 19
Where: Shakespear Regional Park
For more information: www.trailrun.co.nz