High Five-0 Challenge Day 50 – Rangitoto (The DUAL): He knocked 50 bastards off

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

Oh boy. How do I even write about this? My job is to put Mal's effort into words but my knowledge of the language doesn't span wide enough to cover what he achieved last weekend at the DUAL marathon on Motutapu and Rangitoto islands.

What Mal accomplished on Saturday was "epic", "inspirational" and all those other terribly overused words you see thrown around for no reason these days. I'm using them for a reason, though. Actually, 50 reasons – each of them a literal and metaphorical mountain of pain and achievement, beyond anyone else's ability to comprehend. I can try to use as many polysyllabic words as I can but the reality is much, much simpler:

He did it. That nutter bloody did it.

Mal achieved what many thought impossible and ran 50 mountain marathons over 50 peaks in 50 consecutive days. And you expect me to write about it coherently? I mean, what? Seriously!

On the 50th day, Mal woke up on Motutapu Island looking like he'd been resting for the last 50 days. The adrenaline was pumping through his body like never before and he found himself toeing the start line of the DUAL with energy to spare.

Mal was not going to take a single step of this final marathon alone. Like on all other 49 days, he had an army of red shirts behind him – over 40 of them this time. At the start line, the atmosphere was one of celebration and the peak hadn't even been bagged yet. Day 50, as Mal had predicted, was to be his 'lap of honour'.

He was, as he described himself, in a state of euphoria all day long. "It was something I only expected to feel over maybe the final kilometre. I thought I'd be crawling this in 8 or 9 hours and never imagined I'd have the energy to enjoy the day in the way I did."

From the very start, you could tell this was going to be a day much different than expected. All of those who had happily signed up to join Mal on day 50 thinking he'd be crawling by then (*points to self*) were surprised to find themselves running behind him. It turns out there was no point even trying to plan this day 50 blog in my head beforehand anyway because I could never have guessed I'd be struggling to keep up with Mal that day – and yet that is precisely what happened.

"There was an amazing 'feel good' atmosphere created by the over 40 red shirts that ran with me. Also, I had no need to conserve energy or my body any longer so I could let it rip for sections at a time," he explains. In the end, he ran (actually ran!) the DUAL in under 7 hours, meaning that his final peak was close to being his fastest peak (you can't make this sort of stuff up!), only slower than his time on Day 1, when he ran a marathon at the Tarawera Ultra 30 minutes quicker than he did on Day 50. "I reckon that, with the adrenaline that was pumping round my body, I could have knocked off the DUAL in around 5 hours," he adds, making me feel even worse about myself.

Reaching the summit of Rangitoto was... something.

(I told you I had no words for what had happened.)

When Mal got to the top, quickly followed by his red shirt army, every single person near that trig knew they were part of something incredibly special and living a moment that would forever be inked in history books (or at least the history books worth reading, the ones recounting the journeys of great explorers and adventurers. But don't forget you read about it here first.)

There were as many smiles as there were tears. There were hugs, high fives, handshakes and all other possible ways of manifesting the pure joy of having reached that peak. He couldn't believe it and yet there he was, standing tall on yet another peak, the fiftieth and final peak of his incredible journey.

With plenty of energy left and the goal of finishing the marathon in time to attend prizegiving, Mal got his red shirt army to really work up a sweat down the hill and along the tracks from Rangitoto back to Motutapu. There were more memorable moments throughout that run than I can list on here so I asked Mal to pick a few of his highlights: "towing you to the final high point of the challenge, dancing (if you can call it that) 'The Moose', and Beinn joining me for the final 10kms", among many others.

It was a day of true celebration, of going further and higher than ever before, of facing a challenge head on and giving it everything, no reservations, no holding back. It was the day Mal had dreamed of for over two years, ever since this High Five-0 deal formed in his head. The joy was bigger than the pain; the excitement was way above the tiredness. After days and days of having to think of variations of the word "tired", today I found myself trying to come up with different ways to describe "happy". Mal had dared to dream bigger than he ever thought possible, aimed higher than he thought he could reach and then found himself right where he never knew where he'd be able to be. On Day 50, along the tracks of Rangitoto and Motutapu, Mal was the happiest he'd ever been. He was the greatest he'd ever been. He was all the adjectives, all the emotions – he felt complete.

His wife and chief supporter Sally, along with his son Beinn, joined him for the final 10km of the run, his red army right behind him at every step. The sun was as high as it could get and the spirits were even higher - every step a different reason to smile, every metre a metre closer to greatness.

Mal spotted the finish line of the DUAL from the top of the final descent. Hundreds of people awaited and a guard of honour formed along the finish chute as he made his way down the hill. Mal had previously confessed that, in the darkest hours of the challenge, he'd tried to visualise that finish line in his head. He'd done it hundreds of times while training for the High Five-0, imagining what it would feel like to finish his 50th marathon on Motutapu. Nothing could have prepared him for what actually happened.

Two years after he'd first dreamed of the High Five-0, 1,659km after his first step at the Tarawera Ultra, 427 hours and 81,779m of vertical gain later, Mal crossed the finish line of the DUAL marathon after metres and metres of a guard of honour greeting him as a soldier returning from a very particular war. "It was quite possibly the best 30 seconds of my life – utterly overwhelming and totally humbling."

One final step and he was done. That was it – the culmination of two years of dreaming and hard work, of focusing on a goal he at times feared was beyond himself. He turned around to hug Sally and Beinn who'd finished right behind him.

He cheered for every single runner who crossed the finish line after him, handed medals to every red shirt, spoke at prizegiving and proceeded to party through the evening (a whole other endurance event in itself, which I might tell you about here when he's not looking).

Sir Ed famously said that "it's not the mountain we conquer but ourselves". Against all odds, Mal conquered himself over and over again, fifty consecutive times, for a cause much bigger than him.

The big fundraising effort continues. Please help us reach $505,050 by texting GOMAL to 2446 to make a $3 donation to the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand (NZ mobiles only) or donate straight to Mal's fundraising page (or the page of a support runner you know).

Thank you for following the High Five-0 journey from that side of the screen. It may have been one man's crazy dream but it would not have happened without the support of thousands of people on that side.

Cartoon by Dawn Tuffery

Progress so far:
1,659kms run
81,779 metres climbed
427 hours 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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