High Five-0 Challenge Day 45 – Te Aroha: Feeling the love

The following is taken from the High Five-0 Challenge Blog

Mal is tired. I know this because he repeats that information at regular intervals in between other sentences. He knows I've heard him the first 37 times so I'm pretty sure he is saying it just to let it out of his system. The man is tired.

This is how it is now. We see it. Mal feels it. He has reached the point where he just does not want to get out of bed in the morning to run anymore. It's the kind of accumulated tiredness that a night of sleep can't resolve.

"I'm beginning to think this is how it's going to be until the end," he tells me. "I just have to accept that, like today, I'm going to feel like death at the start of the day and then hopefully get progressively better. I didn't want to hit the trail today. I was well and truly over it, frankly. But within twenty minutes of being out there, I started feeling better."

This might be one man's crazy epic mission but he is not doing it alone. The support he received from others carried him through the day and will carry him through to the finish. Te Aroha was another example – the 45th example – of that.

When Mal and his High Five-0 travelling circus arrived in town far too late the night before, he had a sign outside his accommodation to welcome him and a kitchen full of baking inside. Suzy Monds, one of the support runners for the day, had gone a long way out of her way to make Mal and the High Five-0 crew feel like guests of honour.

The next morning, he was joined at the start by a core of local runners (Suzy, Julie, and Mike) and other red shirts from out of town for the climb up to Te Aroha. With only six peaks to go, Mal managed to find enough energy for a smile for the start photo, while dreading the day ahead of him.

Luckily, he had plenty to keep him entertained. For a start, he was running through beautiful trails in a pretty unique area with a rich mining history. He was also running with a lively group of people, including Mike in his tiger suit.

But what is incredibly runnable trail for Mal on fresh legs is not at all runnable for Mal at day 45 and, from the start, he felt the frustration of having to march up the trail that looked perfect to run on. This is how it is now.

It didn't help that most of the day was one long gentle uphill. "It was a run that would have made a lot more sense to do the other way around," Mal tells me. The initial plan, before the High Five-0 itinerary suffered some changes, was for Te Aroha to happen in the first week, while Mal was heading south, which is why it made sense to run it from north to south. "But then even when we changed the plan, we had already decided on accommodation in Te Aroha and the domain just made for such a perfect finish line we decided not to change it."

That small sacrifice ended up costing him a fair bit of extra energy to get through the day. "You think it's not hard but cumulatively it's actually quite hard work to go gently up a hill for that long."

It helped that there were no tricky technical portions of the trail to navigate through today – a big change from the last few days. "The time actually went really fast. I never felt like we had a massive time pressure. We cruised along and finished 7 minutes ahead of schedule," Mal says, proudly.

Bragging about meeting his estimated finish times is one of Mal's favourite things to do as soon as he crosses the finish line, right up there with eating a massive bacon sandwich. "I just like to point out to Sal that I'm not actually always late," he explains. "Really, I do try to finish within those times. It's hard on the support crew when the run goes on for longer and it also affects my recovery time."

Despite their "cruisy" pace, the team made their way to the summit on schedule, to find a High Five-0 summit flag that Mike's brother-in-law and nephew had hiked up to plant earlier in the day. "That was one of the highlights for me," says Mal, explaining how special he felt knowing someone had gone through that trouble for him.

From then on, the team made their way downhill to the finish line back in town, where Te Aroha had put on a proper party. "We were running down the hill and could hear music and someone with a microphone and I thought there was something going on in the domain but had no idea it was for us. As we got closer, I realised it was. It felt quite special."

Local runners and supporters had organised a bbq in the park, complete with a live band and a Mt Te Aroha cake (which even featured a plastic tiger to represent Mike in his tiger suit).

"It was fantastic to have so much community support. So many locals out on the trail knew about us and then that whole reception back in town... It was really special."

After partying hard (and by "partying hard" I mean "lying on a picnic mat trying to eat, drink and appear awake"), Mal got a massage from Suzy and admitted to starting to worry that the tiredness might affect his coordination and result in an accident. "Each day, I feel a whole year older. I'm self-conscious of how I must be looking out on the trails and I find myself getting worried over technical stuff. My right ankle feels weaker. What if I slip?"

But what if you don't?

Progress so far:
1453kms run
73,205 metres climbed
380h16 total time on feet

Mal is attempting the most audacious feat of endurance ever attempted on New Zealand soil - running 50 mountain marathons & climbing 50 peaks in just 50 days!
He and his support runners are aiming to raise at least $400,000 for the Mental Health Foundation NZ.
To follow his epic journey & see more photos visit https://www.facebook.com/high50challenge
To donate online go to Mal's fundraising page http://www.fundraiseonline.co.nz/MalcolmLaw/
Or you can text GOMAL to 2446 to donate $3 to the Mental Health Foundation

Made possible by the generous support of Partners Life, without whom none of this would be happening.

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