Kiwi trail runner Anna Frost's commitment to her craft is such that, on her official break from international competition, she has decided to run a marathon just for fun.
Frost will compete in this month's Partners Life DUAL event on Auckland's Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands. It's safe to assume most of her fellow competitors will be daunted by the prospect of running 42km over uneven tracks, but for Frost it's all in a day's work.
The 33-year-old from Dunedin runs with the Salomon team on the international trail circuit. The lifestyle is glamorous and gruelling in equal measure. While she gets to travel to interesting places across the US and Europe and compete in spectacular scenery, the life of a professional trail runner is a nomadic one.
Frost does road trips from event to event for around nine months of the year, but she is particular about making time for an annual holiday back home.
"I always come back in December and have Christmas and New Year's with the family," she says.
Frost was signed by Salomon in 2009, having originally turned professional with British company INOV8 in 2004. While she loves the life she now leads, it wasn't something she had planned for.
"I was a hockey player all my life. When I was at university I started doing some triathlons and track running. The club that I was running for was organising the world mountain running championships in Cardrona. I was setting up the course and someone said to me, 'you may as well race'."
She did, and finished high enough to qualify for the world championships in Italy later that year. A whole new world opened up for the Otago physical education student.
"When I got to Italy, I just fell in love - with the people, the culture, the travel. And I saw there was a professional racing scene there, that people were doing it for a living."
That moment set in train a career that is now into its 11th year. Initially Frost worked part-time in the UK to support herself, but the deal with Salomon a few years later freed her up to focus on running full time.
"It's a reasonable living," she says. "I can get by in a year. My sponsors pay for all my living and travel expenses, but I don't really come home with much. There's a little bit of prize money, but we're talking $3000 or $1000 here or there.
"It's a long year of travel and living out of a suitcase. The good thing is the team is really supportive. We have a pretty good crew who are basically my travelling family. Without them it would just be too hard."
Frost acknowledges that the extreme distances she runs take a toll on her body, but she says maintaining a normal healthy diet has been the key to her longevity.
"You see runners that get way too skinny. It's terrible. I've always maintained a fairly healthy body size and that's worked for me. I never stay too strict. I have chocolate every day and ice cream nearly every day."
Coming home each summer reminds Frost of just how much she misses New Zealand.
"I'm kind of in this phase at the moment of saying this is the opportunity of a lifetime, being sponsored to follow my dreams. I think I have to make the most of this now, but every day I miss New Zealand. I feel very privileged to come from this country.
"I think what I'm going to get tired of first is the non-stop travel, being away from home, not having a routine, not having regular coffee dates with your girlfriends. [They're] the sort of things that seem so small and simple, but in the end they're huge."
In addition to a marathon, the Partners Life DUAL encompasses walking, mountain biking and off-road triathlon courses. According to the event organiser, Nick Carroll, it's the only time in the year that people are allowed to take mountain bikes on to the islands.
Frost will be joined on the DUAL by another big name in ultra racing circles, Mal Law, who ran New Zealand's seven great walks in seven days in 2009. His latest endurance plan is to run 50 off-road marathons and climb 50 peaks in 50 days to raise money for mental health awareness.
Frost says supporting Law is the main reason she agreed to race in the event. "He's a really great friend of mine, and I have enormous respect for what he and his team have achieved so far. He's already changed so many lives by getting out there and raising an enormous amount of money. It's inspiring."
The Partners Life DUAL multisport event.
Saturday, March 28.
Options include a trail marathon, half-marathon and other shorter distances, various mountain bike distances, and an off-road triathlon.
Firefighter on target for two milestones in one day
For one competitor in next month's Tauranga half marathon, the event will mark more than just an athletic milestone.
Ewen McRae will turn 60 on the day of the race, which will also mark his recovery from a hip-replacement operation he had almost a year ago.
McRae had been studiously following a strict regime of physiotherapy and Pilates in his recovery, but it was a cheeky birthday present from his wife that prompted - or forced - him to step things up.
"We were at the Auckland marathon, and my daughter was getting her sign-up papers to run. My wife saw a stall [that said] the Tauranga half marathon was on April 12. She looked at me and said, 'That's your birthday, dear. Guess what I'm buying you?'"
McRae, who works as the station officer at the Papatoetoe fire station, had run a half marathon in Las Vegas a while back, but most of his running was just to help him maintain his fitness. About a year ago his hip started to give him grief, making physical activity painful.
Following the operation, McRae has been working hard to build the strength up in his leg, and the training for the half marathon has been a significant part of that rehabilitation. He says in recovering from hip replacements, it's important to get moving again as soon as possible.
"It doesn't take much to get into walking and slowly increase it," he says. "I'm lucky because I've got a job where I've got to be physically fit."
His daughter Naomi is a keen runner, and will be taking part in the New York marathon this year to raise money for the CatWalk Foundation. She set McRae up with a training schedule that he does his best to follow, extending his distances each week. It was difficult going at first.
"I started running and found out very quickly that I had to slow up a bit and concentrate on a fast walk."
As a result, McRae will compete in the race as a walker.
He hopes it is the start of things to come.
Sunday, April 12
Four courses are available - the half marathon, 14km, 7km and 1.6km.