New Zealand's Great Walks, nine hiking loops that range from about 20 to 50 miles around, provide the country's ultimate scenic tour.
"They're iconic long distance hikes," said Kiwi adventurer Malcolm Law. “The very best New Zealand landscapes.” Good thing, because Law's sure going to need something to distract him on his daunting endeavor.
Starting November 25, Law, 49, will attempt to do in a week what might usually take a month: covering seven of the Great Walks in as many days on foot—that's 223 miles of challenging trail running.
Law came up with his 7 in 7 Challenge to raise money for Leukemia research—a cause that's been close to his heart since age nine, when his older brother died of the disease.
From the time he sold his market research business last year and began
training for the event, to the day that Law embarks on the challenge, he'll
have run roughly 2,000 miles in preparation. “You just have to remind
yourself," he said, "would you rather be out here feeling some pain in
this beautiful scenery, or giving a presentation to a bunch of people
about toilet rolls?”
The run has never been attempted before. “The distance involved in itself is pretty huge. Then throw in the sleep deprivation," said Law. Vans and helicopters will transport a physically exhausted Law and a fresh daily batch of support runners each night from one trail to the next. Beginning in the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk, Law will skirt the perimeter of the lake through pristine rain forest. On the second day he'll navigate the moonlike craters and otherworldly volcanic terrain of the Tongariro Northern Circuit. The remaining Walks present wildly diverse scenery, from golden sand beaches to jagged mountain peaks, groves of Nikau palm trees to roaring waterfalls, and the Challenge culminates in the glacier carved valleys of the Kepler Track—Law's last leg consists of the 37 mile Kepler Challenge mountain run.
How does he expect to perform in the final stretch? "If I’m still alive a this point . . . not very well. I think I'll be in survival mode by then." Jogging without an iPod, he'll be singing in his head what he usually does at the end of a long workout: Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty."—Text by Greer Schott; Photograph courtesy of Malcolm Law
For your own Great Walks adventure (perhaps at a more leisurely pace), book a permit at the New Zealand Department of Conservation.