When you've run Rotorua's testing marathon, have the Tarawera Ultra Marathon in the bag and "knocked off" the Taupo Ironman what's next?

If you're Kylie Lang it's walk the length of the North Island, with the south lined up as her 2015 summer project.

This won't be just be any old trek, Kylie's undertaking it as a fundraiser for mental health and there's another twist, her plan's to walk with someone different every day.

The former district council events organiser ascribes to the "why wait until you retire to do things that get in the way of work?" school of thought.


With Ironman done and dusted "it was like tick, cool, that's done, I'm not going to do it again", she cast about for a new challenge; while taking an online look at the Te Araroa trail stretching from Cape Reinga to Bluff a light bulb flashed: she'd walk it.

"'What's stopping you?' came to the front of my mind then I thought it's always nice to share, when you walk alone you have no one to say to 'wow, look at that view', that got me thinking about a different person every day."

In May Kylie set up the 'I Am Not Alone Walk of New Zealand' website inviting others to join her for a day, it's become a hit, participants from across the Tasman have also accepted the challenge.

Never one to do things by halves Kylie had another brainwave. She and her fellow walkers would fundraise along the way with those signing on automatically pledging $200 to the Mental Health Foundation. Why mental health, we ask? The answer's intensely personal.
Kylie's father took his life when she was 4, her 19-year-old brother followed a similar path when she was 21.

"Having two in the family to die like this is hard, very hard; when you are 4 you don't quite understand but with my brother it was a lot harder."

It also made Kylie realise self-inflicted death's not a subject people tend to talk about.

"What's fantastic about planning this walk is that people wanting to get on board are opening up, I've been amazed by how many families have been affected by mental illness, talking about it makes it much more acceptable; Robin Williams' recent death's stirred up a lot of interest in doing something about it."

With her walk scheduled to start on October 13 Our People set ourselves a challenge of our own, it was to find out exactly who this Kylie Lang person is. Her council role made her name familiar but what of the woman behind it?

Knowing nothing about her left us without pre-conceived perceptions and, yes, first impressions do count.

Vitality bounced off the women who opened the door to us, she radiates the stuff and is a great conversationalist - ideal for someone who plans to talk with someone different every day for 10 weeks.

We quickly learn Kylie hasn't only suffered the tragedy of losing her father and brother but that rejection's also slapped her in the face.

At 17, she dipped out on being selected for the 1990 New Zealand Commonwealth Games swim squad by a second. Butterfly "the hardest" was her stroke of choice and she'd been a Bay of Plenty rep swimmer but the Commonwealth Games knock-back turned her off swimming competitively.

"I've never regretted it but when I watched this year's Commonwealth Games I realised [missing out] was perfect for my role as a sports mentor."

Kylie mentors 17 sports-oriented students online. "I love it and use my Commonwealth Games experience to help prepare them for disappointment."

With her serious pool days behind her Kylie enrolled at Massey, graduating with a Bachelor of Education but didn't immediately teach, instead becoming the Arawa Swim Club's coach, followed by a couple of years as a gym instructor.

After a trip to Europe and South Africa "I feel in love with Africa, I'm addicted, been back seven times", she did move into the classroom, working at Western Heights then Owhata primaries.

"It was awesome but one day I decided I didn't want to be a burnt out, grumpy teacher when I really wanted to be an amazing teacher."

Next stop the district council. "I'd studied sports and event management in some post-graduate papers so I kind of fitted in."

The role was to be temporary, covering for a staffer on maternity leave. "I tell my job- hunting friends you have to look for where the pregnant women are, they are going to take some time off."

The maternity cover job led to her appointment as the council's community programmes and events co-ordinator - a wide-ranging portfolio which saw her working closely with Sport BOP for Walktober, embrace the inaugural Fire and Ice Festival with January's GLO Festival her swan song.

With each job she's had she's continued to sate her travel lust. "It used to be in three-yearly cycles then got to the stage where I was asking myself 'why so long between trips?', now it's six weeks every year."

Apart from intensive "on the hoof" training, preparation for Kylie's trek's included honing her camping skills. "I want to be able to put a tent up with my eyes closed."

And there's a self-imposed incentive to finish on schedule; she's booked to visit Melbourne on December 27.

"The date's my reminder to make it down the North Island in time to catch the flight."

To support Kylie's walk donations to the Mental Health Foundation can be made via www.fundraiseonline.co.nz/KylieLang/.

Born: Palmerston North, 1974.
Education: Levin and Palmerston North primaries, Whakatane
Intermediate and high schools, Rotorua Girls' High, Massey
Family: Husband Graeme Jaques (they met internet dating,
marrying two years ago) parents Barry and Janice Lang, one
brother, "our blind cat".
Interests: Walking, reading "real life adventures, nice thrillers",
"experimental" cooking, travel, relaxing at Papamoa beach house.
Personal Philosophy: "If life gives you lemons make lemonade."