When Brook van Reenen was young, the founder of the Te Araroa trail (which covers the length of New Zealand) went over to visit the family. The 32-year-old Wanaka local was only young but remembers it clearly.
"He had a big pack and was walking the length of New Zealand, that night he and my dad Gilbert van Reenen were looking over maps and working out where the trail could go in the Wanaka region.
"I never knew what it meant until a few years later when I read his book," he said.
Brook only took up trail running in 2016 but immediately became a passionate member of the community. "The scenery I get to experience always leaves me in awe, the journey that you go through from signing up to a race may it be a half marathon a full marathon or an ultra, slowly ticking off each training day, spending time outdoors with like-minded trail runners, battling the weather, rain, wind, snow, hot, cold, solving problems, reaching a high after an epic run and hitting the lowest of lows when things don't go to plan... it's all good experience."
Brook's passion is evident in every word he says about his beloved sport so now, not long after going on his first trail run, he'll do the ultimate trail run: the whole length of New Zealand.
Running is not something that has come easy for him. He doesn't have a lot of experience and has had a few hiccups along the way during his training but, if anything, his struggle with running only elevates the dimension of the challenge.
He's planning to leave Bluff, in the South Island, on August 24, and run the 3000km trail network all the way to the top of Cape Reinga in 114 days.
He won't be breaking any speed records -- he'll be doing it for the pure joy of running trails and, more importantly, to raise awareness about the benefits of spending time outdoors as one of the ways to wellbeing.
Throughout his adventure, he hopes to be joined by people from all parts of the country who might be keen to run a few kilometres alongside him.
"I also want to raise $5000 for the mental health foundation of New Zealand. It was an obvious choice, I will battle through massive mental struggles within myself to get this crazy dream finished," he said.
"I want to inspire people and encourage people to get outdoors and show them that spending time outside is great for your mental health."
To prepare, Brook has spent his summer running the trails near his home, summiting peaks and covering hundreds of kilometres on trails. He's also entered a few races, to keep himself motivated. Last weekend, he ran the Shotover Moonlight Marathon. He also plans to run the Routeburn Classic and the Mount Difficult Ascent. This weekend, he'll give the 50km distance a crack at the notoriously challenging Northburn race.
"Previously, I would train super hard for these and race them but now my mindset has changed and I am treating them all as big adventures because I want to start Te Araroa in one piece and not burnt out before it begins."
The Te Araroa is an important piece of the van Reenen family history. Brook's Dad, Gilbert, was involved in the development of some of the Te Araroa trail particularly in Otago. He had heard Geoff Chapple discussing his plans with Kim Hill on RNZ back in 1998 and offered to help. He had lived and worked in the South Island back country and was on the Otago Conservation Board at the time. He also knew most of the farmers through whose land the proposed trail would go and was involved in facilitating the access.
One of Brook's goals is also to honour the work of those who laboured so hard to create this unique trail uniting such a vast piece of land.
He's already raised $1940 and hasn't even started his big mission. If you'd like to donate towards Brook's efforts, click here.