Bridget Jakicevich says the 100km walk of the Oxfam Trailwalker is "just a bonus" - the real success of the event lies in making a difference through fundraising.
Jakicevich is team leader for the Ich's and Bitches, who have raised the most money out of all the entrants in today's event in Taupo. They have raised $11,992 to smash their fundraising target of $10,000.
The Auckland-based team comprises two couples, Bridget and Joe Jakicevich and Michelle and Peter Rakich. Their team is named after the "ich" in their last names.
At first light this morning they were among more than 1000 athletes of all abilities beginning their journey to complete the distance for charity.
Jakicevich, a 49-year-old digital manager, is returning for her second Trailwalker, six years on from her first go at the event.
She says the trailwalk is special because it brings people together - her team has spent countless hours training and fundraising together as they prepared for the annual event.
Jakicevich says the key to their significant fundraising effort has been using all of their personal networks, technology and social media, and also some healthy competition among their team.
"We've been lucky enough to have access to groups of people who have been able to donate generously," she said.
"I think that the Oxfam Trailwalker isn't about walking 100km. It's about raising awareness and raising money. The walk is just a bonus."
Not many people would call walking 100km a bonus. Jakicevich said it was hard to resist the challenge.
"It's challenging enough to require both physical and mental toughness but it is a more accessible event for the everyday person than, say, running a marathon or doing a triathlon.
"I think it's a bit like childbirth. Your memory blanks out the brutal bits and focuses on the euphoria at the end."
She was keeping positive ahead of the ultra-marathon walk. After all, the hardest part of the journey is already behind her. "The hardest thing about walking 100km is getting to the start line. Trailwalker training is very time- consuming and it makes it very hard to balance work, kids, friends and training.
"Early mornings and nights were often the only hours we could find to train. And then there's the blisters and the full-body aches."
The Oxfam Trailwalker has a history of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to support a good cause. Oxfam New Zealand's executive director Rachael Le Mesurier says it is hugely inspiring to see so many Kiwis and tourists pushing themselves to the limit.
"Oxfam Trailwalker is an incredible personal challenge but also an extremely important fundraiser for Oxfam," she said. "Each team's fundraising helps Oxfam make a difference for communities throughout the Pacific."
People are travelling from around the world to compete this weekend, from as far as the United Kingdom, France, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, the United States and Australia.
The trail takes walkers through some of New Zealand's most spectacular scenery including Huka Falls, native bush and stunning views across Lake Taupo.
All four teammates aim to complete the distance together (not in a relay) in less than 36 hours.
There are many highlights, and lowlights, to the event but nothing compares to the feeling of finally crossing the finish line after about 24 hours of solid walking. "It's a really good feeling," said Jakicevich.
"There have usually been some tough times in the previous hours but you forget about all of that when you approach the finish line. There's relief and satisfaction.
"There's also a profound desire to sit down and not get back up again."