Roy's Peak 24 Hour Challenge: the Peak of Possibility

With ultra-runner Tanya Bottomley

So I had this crazy idea. I wanted to spend 24 hours running up and down a mountain. For me, these crazy ideas I have tend to blossom pretty quickly and before I knew it, that small idea, that whisper of a dream was coming to bloom. It became a reality.

I decided Roy's Peak in Wanaka was iconic, accessible and obviously has some of the most stunning views in New Zealand. If I was going to spend 24 hours running the same track, it had better be one that was scenic!

Once I had decided, I put the idea out there. I talked to friends and then I made it public - and then I promptly regretted it. What had I done?! Was I crazy?! Could I achieve this? My stomach was in knots, but there was no looking back. I knew I could do it and one way or another, I would spend 24 hours on that mountain and have an epic adventure!

 

Why?!

Why, why, WHY?! The most common question. Why would you want to do that to yourself? For most people, one lap of Roy's Peak is enough and yet, I was planning to do six. You see, I've had some tough stuff in my life - over ten years in an abusive relationship, and running was partly my savior. It was a place to grow my confidence and to work through the healing and the trauma. The Roy's Peak challenge was more than a run for me. It was a celebration of possibility, of the second chance I got at life. 

At 10am on Saturday, December 12, 2020 I was ready to run. I had made my peace with mountain, accepting whatever would come of the day. I was ready to see what was possible.

The first few laps

Lap 1: With great friends and great chat, we took off. It seemed my training had paid off and the mountain felt easy. We cruised the first lap in 2 hours and 45 minutes return. I was excited. The lap felt a lot easier than I had expected and you couldn't wipe the grin off my face. This was going to be a good day. 

Runners descend Roy's Peak in Wanaka, New Zealand

Lap 2: I dropped my pace and experienced the slight panic of things going off plan. But I worked through that in y head, instead choosing to focus on the beautiful scenery and having gratitude for being out there. I was finally doing this thing that I had been dreaming about and that in itself was enough to keep me calm.

A runner on Roy's Peak in Wanaka, New Zealand

Laps 3 & 4: Lap 3 brought a new friend to pace me and I did lap 4 by myself, singing and dancing my way up the mountain with my favourite tunes for company.

I was still clocking under 3 hours per lap at this point and by my calculations, I was well on track to smash my goal of 6 laps on of the park. I didn't want to get too carried away though, I was still only just under halfway - with 12 hours to go, anything could happen. But there was an excitement in my belly that I just couldn't quash, a deep knowing that this run was going to be so much more than I expected.

Into the night

Lap 5: Some good friends had come to join me through the night and the cloak of darkness descended. The sunset was breathtaking as the lights of Wanaka town lit up and then extinguished as people went to bed - while we kept running.

Runners head up Roy's Peak at sunset in Wanaka, New Zealand

Lap 6: I was still charging and we were into the small hours now, following the light of our torches as we ticked off another lap.

Lap 7: The track started to come alive again, fellow adventurers heading to the summit for sunrise, surprised that I had been going all day and all night! This was also the lap where it started to hurt. The words may have been uttered on the descent that I could "happily call it a day". I could still run, but the muscle damage was starting to make itself known and my legs protested both on the way up and down.

The sun rises again

Lap 8: The sun came up and with it, the promise of completing my 8th lap. I had said 6 laps publicly, with the hopes that I might make it to 6.5 (or 7 summits). But here I was, around 6am and with 4 hours left to complete my 8th lap. I was for over 120km on the Roy's Peak track and just over 10,000m of climbing!

Layout of a runner on Roy's Peak in Wanaka, New Zealand

The final lap took all I had, perhaps because my body was done or because my mind knew that I'd reached far beyond my goal and was giving my body permission to feel what it previously wasn't allowed. And with one more lap to go, it didn't feel great. Each big step of the ascent and each small step of the descent sent pain searing through my broken muscles.

But, I made it to the summit yet again - touched the pole for a final time and gave myself permission to stop and take in the view. Mt. Aspiring was glistening in the sun as the surrounding mountains put on a show for the perfect Summer's morning. Photos, high-fives and hugs, then it was time for the descent. 

At 9:40am on December 13, 2020 I completed my Roy's Peak challenge. 8 summits, 120km and over 10,000m of climbing. An untold number of high-fives, words of encouragement and cheers from fellow track users. A truly perfect experience. My cheeks were so sore from smiling, my body broken and my heart full. 

An ultra-runner on Roy's Peak in Wanaka, New Zealand

The Roy's Peak challenge was a challenge to celebrate what is possible, and what I learned was that sometimes, so much more is possible than what you ever dreamed or expected.