High Five-0 Challenge Day 49 – Te Toiokawharu: Familiar contrasts

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

It wasn't even light outside yet (I remember because I complained a lot about that) and Mal was raring to go. "Come on, guys!" he hurried the crew as we finished breakfast and grabbed our gear in Mal's Karekare bach (a bach much more suitable for relaxing inside all day long than for mad dashes at dawn).

"I was positive and excited," he explained to me when I asked what all that morning energy was about, on a day when we all expected him to struggle to get out of bed. "It felt like the last 'true' day of the challenge with day 50 really being the 'lap of honour'."

For his 49th consecutive peak, Mal ran an ultramarathon that included some of the most rugged bush tracks in the Waitakere Ranges to get to the highest point in the ranges before breaking out of the bush in Titirangi and making his way into the big smoke for a long stretch along the road to finish at the Auckland Ferry Building. Running east towards the ferry terminal, where he had to catch the ferry to Motutapu for the start of day 50, really helped Mal feel like he was finally making real progress towards the finish.
"The stark contrast from the mountains, the bush and all the wild places to the city streets provided yet another different kind of experience and really underlined the incredible variety of terrain and running surfaces that made up the challenge," he adds.

Mal had a solid army of red shirts following him all the way and keeping his spirit high for the whole day. "I was tripped up by supplejack vine and thrown off track into the bush, impaling my hand on a stick but not even that could wipe the smile off my face!"

[Sally's note: the "impaled hand" was actually a splinter.]

Once they broke out of the bush and onto the pavement, the red shirts had the support crew following them around most of the way. "Everybody was in a great mood from start to finish and we were determined to have fun out there. This was helped by regular doses of fanatical support crew cheerleading!"

Since Mal was now running in Auckland, he stopped at a café in Titirangi for a coffee before continuing east towards the CBD. Along his route, a stack of undelivered newspapers showed a red shirt on the front page. It was day leader Nick Moore, headlining the local newspaper with a feature on the High Five-0 Challenge. News was spreading - the red army was taking over the city.

Running through his old neighbourhood in Westmere, Mal caught up with the support crew again just outside the house where he was living when he first started dating Sal. "It was the love shack," he joked as he hugged his number one supporter. Paralympian gold medalist Mary Fisher had joined the support crew to follow Mal around for the afternoon (after running her first marathon with Mal in Wellington just days before). She sat outside the Law's old home and played Bob Marley's "One Love" on her Mbira (a Zimbabwean instrument that you may have heard of if your musical education is better than mine). Everyone stood in silence, taking in the melody. Mal and Sal haven't had many private moments in the last 49 days and this was pretty much as good as it was going to get for them before the end of the challenge.

From Westmere, the runners headed down to Cox's Bay while the crew made their way to the city centre. What is for many just another urban jogging route was the scene for another emotional reunion for Mal. His son Beinn was waiting for him at Cox's Bay and the two hadn't seen each other in 7 weeks.

It may have included a peak that no one can pronounce but the day was filled with familiar sights for our main man, back in his old Auckland stomping grounds. The red shirts battled the crowds headed for their Friday drinks around the viaduct for a loud finish just outside the Ferry Building.

Day sponsor Mazda (also one of the main sponsors of the challenge) had set up a finish line on Quay Street with a big banner to greet Mal and his team. It didn't matter that it rained lightly. The number of supporters standing around to greet Mal kept growing as people took notice of what was happening, the coins made a rattling noise as they hit the donation buckets. Auckland was coming out to see Mal.

Running an ultramarathon that stretched so wide didn't take any of the smiles away. Everyone was happy for Mal, who was now waiting to board the ferry to Motutapu Island. It was finally nearly here... day 50 was just across the harbour and, from the terminal, we could spot the island where his dream was about to come true.

Progress so far:
1623kms run
81,059 metres climbed
422h26 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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