Mal Law loves a challenge, he is renowned for his incredible feats of endurance, often paired with raising funds or awareness for charitable causes, but in 2019 he is taking on arguably his biggest as he targets one million feet of climbing, in support of the Mental Health Foundation (MHF).
The 58-year-old will take part in the 15th anniversary Macpac Motatapu on March 9, in the process gaining just over 10,000 of those climbing feet as he takes on the 51km Ultra Marathon from Lake Wanaka to Arrowtown.
The Wanaka local is only recently coming out the other side of chronic fatigue and has his own experience in dealing with depression. He knows better than most the value of the outdoors in mental wellbeing and not to take it for granted.
“Battling chronic fatigue was a tough time, I was completely cold turkey, doing nothing for four months until I could start gentle exercise again and that messed with my head big time. I have had personal encounters with depression on and off, and certainly during that period it was a tough battle dealing with the mental side as I had withdrawal from the drug of choice if you like, that wasn’t easy.
“The message I am really pushing out and wanting to encourage people to do though is to get off the couch, get out there, it doesn’t matter how you do it. Unplug from the real world, don’t bother with head phones or devices. Just get into nature and feel the benefits, they are not just physical, they are mental as well. I would love to get that message out to a wider audience.”
Law hopes to do that without the pressure of a specific short term or event related goal, preferring to spread his one-million-foot effort out over the course of the year, utilizing events like Macpac Motatapu to highlight his efforts.
“I have done a whole lot of fund raising and advocacy work in this area over the years, especially for the Mental health Foundation of New Zealand. The nature of those challenges has been multi-day, back to back challenges.
“The big one that was most known was the High Five-O challenge a few years ago, an attempt on 50 mountain marathons over 50 peaks in 50 days. I am not getting any younger and I am finding those things take a toll on my body and the High Five-O led to my battle with chronic fatigue.
“So, I came up with the idea this year to do something a little different and rather than a highly organized event over a limited time, I set a goal for the entire year to allow me a little bit more respite and have the occasional day off.”
The one million feet equates to just under 305,000 metres, or 850m per day, with most of that being done in his own time and recorded on a live Garmin tracker and monitored on his Facebook page ‘1 Million Feet for Mental Health’.
“I have been into it since January 1st and really enjoying the opportunity to explore new areas and bag some peaks and spread the message around outdoor activity and all it can do to improve your mental wellbeing.”
Law stresses that it doesn’t have to be the highest mountain or the longest Ultra event to challenge people and deliver
“I like to take on big hairy challenges, that is how I get my kicks out of life, but you don’t need to do that to get the benefits from your mental wellbeing. The main way I dealt with my chronic fatigue was substituting my hour plus run a day with a gentle walk at the lake with my dog. Being with a dog is amazing and can teach you to live in the moment, that is something dogs sure know how to do!”
Ironically for such an adventurer who calls Wanaka home, he has never competed at the iconic Motatapu event before.
“I was tail-end Charlie on the Ultra course a couple of years ago. Other than that, I have been through that trail a few times and it is an absolute backyard favourite for me. The only thing I haven’t done before though is strap a number on and give it a nudge in a race environment, so I am looking forward to that.
“It is a part of the country I love going through, it has really just been a clash of dates I the past, there was always something on the same day, other than when I was tail-end Charlie. But finally, this year I have nothing else on and I can come and compete.”
While short for an Ultra trail running event at 51km, don’t let that fool you, with the elevation and ruggedness of the course suiting Law perfectly.
“I love the journey aspect of it, from Lake Wanaka to Arrowtown, through spectacular mountain scenery and I like that it is not a well-made groomed trail. It is pretty gnarly all the way through and has a lot of hill climbing, so I like it because there is a lot of opportunity to walk and that suits me, I am not an out and out runner, so it is ideal for me.”
Law warns anyone off being complacent about the course.
“It takes a lot of people by surprise, you can read the website and talk to other people, but until you see it for yourself up close, most people are not prepared for what they are in for. This year could be tough, we have had a wet spring and early summer in Otago so some of the trails might be quite overgrown and could be tougher to push through than normal.”
Of course, there is a fundraising target, as well as the message he is helping spread.
“My goal is $100,000 dollars, I am just under $4,000 so I have a long way to go. 100% of the money raised goes to Mental Health to continue their great work in that space.”
Entries are open for all events, visit www.motatapu.com for more information
March 9 and 10, 2019
Saturday 9 March
6:00am Ultra Run, 51km
8:00am XTERRA Triathlon, 2km swim, 47km mountain bike, 8.5km trail run
9:00am – 10:30am ŠKODA Mountain Bike, 47km
12:00pm Ebike, 51km
Sunday 10 March
7:30am Off Road Marathon, 42km
9:00am Miners Trail, 15km
9:30am Sawpit Trail, 8.5km