Cromwell-based runner Andrew Robinson has done what may be considered a first – complete all 10 of New Zealand’s Great Walks in just 10 days.
On day one, Andrew Robinson watched his goal get swallowed by gales, clag and bitter sleet – a Tongariro specialty.
The Cromwell cross country runner was attempting a difficult first: 10 Great Walks in 10 days. After ticking off his first track that morning, Lake Waikaremoana, his support team drove him to Whakapapa to tackle the Tongariro Northern Circuit – but it was not to be.
“I reckon it’s got to be the most temperamental mountain in New Zealand,” Robinson said.
Turned around near Mangatepopo Hut by dangerous weather, Robinson returned to the support van dejected, wondering if he should bother completing eight more Great Walks.
“I thought, if I couldn’t get 10 in 10, what was the point?” he said.
“But then I realised if I wanted to inspire people to get out and do something, it would be more inspiring to do 9.3 Great Walks than pull the pin on the first day.”
With that mindset, he woke up on day two to begin the 148km Whanganui River Journey, but he couldn’t shake his failure on Tongariro.
With two days of wrist-wrenching paddling ahead, Robinson realised he couldn’t give up on the moody maunga, and he called in a favour.
Enter celebrated ultra runner and friend Jean Beaumont, who agreed to help.
On day three, she drove from Wellington to collect Robinson from Pipiriki and ferry him to Whakapapa for his second attempt, while his support team continued to Nelson.
With near perfect conditions, the runners ticked off the circuit and hightailed it back to Wellington and Robinson’s connecting flight – stopping only for him to devour three vegetarian pies from BP at midnight.
From here, Robinson tackled the Abel Tasman, Heaphy and Paparoa tracks without incident, before turning his attention south.
On the 32km Routeburn, he enjoyed a “leisurely” pace, having previously had a job transporting clients’ cars between the track ends, and running back via the track.
The Milford Track’s Mackinnon Pass delivered “one of the grandest views” Robinson had ever seen, while the stunning Kepler inspired a return visit in future “with fresh legs”.
The final hurdle – Rakiura Track – provided predictable masses of mud, and an easy finish to his mammoth goal.
Robinson hopes to inspire people to create their own challenges, in light of the many races cancelled by Covid.
“There is no need to throw your training away – there are adventures everywhere,” he said.
“You can cancel races, but you can’t cancel running.”