Sixty-nine-year-old Malcolm Fisher is always smiling.

Whether recalling a badly turned ankle running in tramping boots, or illness during the Tararua Mountain Race, or being isolated around the back of Mt Ruapehu at sunset, he smiles.

In the 1950s, his parents Muriel and Bill created Fernglen Gardens, a 4.8ha native plant garden in Birkenhead. Muriel Fisher went on to write several books on gardening with New Zealand plants. The land was acquired by North Shore City Council in 1989 and is now a reserve and education centre, and Fisher is curator for the land he knows intimately.

"My stepfather, Bill, had a good, strong work ethic, so I had lots of jobs like chopping firewood and fencing. All my free time was spent playing Bush Rangers here," he waves his hand at the steep-sided glen studded with magnificent kauri trees.


Every spare moment of Fisher's young life was spent in the bush.

"We went tramping as a family, and I often caused a disturbance by wandering off by myself and not coming back until night."

Tramping was Fisher's lifeblood and he met his wife of 33 years through the sport.

"Every year, the Auckland Associated Mountain Clubs would go into the Pararaha and have competitions like Boiling the Billy and Crossing the Swamp.

"Then we would have a race -- it was called the Tramper's Marathon but it was really only about 9km."

In 2009, the 62-year-old heard about The DUAL, a sporting event to be staged on the twin islands of Motutapu and Rangitoto. Although he was no mountain biker, Fisher was excited about the opportunity to cycle on the islands.

"By the time I got around to signing up, the mountain bike [category] was full," he laughs.

"I thought I'd try one of the running events. But the half marathon was full too -- the only distance with any space left was the marathon. So I ran my first marathon."

Completing The DUAL was the start of a passionate love affair with outdoor events for Fisher who has subsequently raced all over New Zealand and undertaken a number of long solo adventure runs.

He took up multisport at the age of 65, completing The Nugget and Wild Kiwi and is soon to line up for the Maungatautari Mission.

Fisher shrugs off any suggestion that his late commandeering of the sport is inspiring.

"I just like to believe I can do these things. I'm a bit slack in my approach sometimes, should probably do more training to better condition myself, but I have other things to do. Why do I do it? I like the challenge of covering the landscape. I'm uplifted by the natural environment and seeing different plants."

"I do regret losing the ability to do really fast descents -- running down a steep hill with a heavy pack on is exhilarating. I am a bit more cautious than I was" he says.

Caution is relative: Fisher is staring at 70 with a schedule that shows no sign of relenting.

Following the Maungatautari multisport, he plans to run the XTERRA Auckland Winter Series and Man vs Mountain (Wales), and is eyeing the Hillary Trail and a circumnavigation of Mt Ruapehu.