The Asics Kepler Challenge Mountain Run is described as "the jewel in NZ's mountain running calendar" and is taking place this year on Saturday 3rd December.
The 60km event is held over the length of the awe-inspiring and demanding Kepler Track in Fiordland National Park in the stunning South Westland World Heritage Area of New Zealand.
The Kepler Track is a well-maintained mountain trail, world-renowned for its magical alpine views, pristine beech forests and native bird life in an area entirely devoted to conservation where no human habitation is allowed.
The circular run starts along the stunning shores of Lake Te Anau near the town of Te Anau, at a height of about 200m, and includes climbs up to a height of 1,400m.
The men's race record of a phenomenal 4:37:41 is held by Phil Costley, set in 2005. Zelah Morrall smashed the women's race record in 2003 setting the record at 05:23:34. A number of competitors should complete the course in less than five hours while others may take up to 11 hours.
The event is well known for its friendly, community feel. It is run on a charitable basis and organised by a voluntary committee with the support, on race day, of approximately 200 Te Anau residents.
Funds from entry fees and sponsorship help support unique conservation activities within the Kepler track region, most notably the Kepler Birdsong Project, which funds the trapping of small (non native) mammals such as rats and stoats that otherwise kill and endanger native birds and their eggs. The nearby Murchison Mountains are home to the extremely rare Takahe bird, a flightless native bird which at last count number only around 200 in these mountains and are highly vulnerable to attack from animals such as stoats.
On the same day as the Asics Kepler Challenge Mountain Run the sister race the Luxmore Grunt takes place. This is a 27km race up the first section of the Kepler Track and back again, up to a height of 1085m.
Limited to 400 competitors in the Asics Kepler Challenge and 150 in the Luxmore Grunt, the events both fill up very quickly when entries open online on the morning of the first Saturday in July. Find out more atwww.keplerchallenge.co.nz