Kepler Challenge- Pre-Race Article

2012 ASICS Kepler Challenge Pre-Race Article

The following is a press release from the Kepler Challenge committee. Remember to check out our pre race interviews and articles from past winners. We have also organised a easy group run, Thursday 29th Nov, meeting at 4pm at the Control Gates and then a drink and DVD at the Moose Bar at 6pm.

HISTORY OF THE EVENT- Of tough men, long skirts and bronze shoes
The Kepler Challenge has been a fixture on the New Zealand racing calendar for 25 years. The inaugural race (planned to be a one-off) was organised to honour a Fiordland outdoor legend.
In 1988, the Te Anau community was looking for a way to commemorate the centenary of the re-discovery of Milford Track by Quinton MacKinnon (re-discovery as it is thought that a similar route had previously been used by Maori to gather greenstone from Milford Sound). At a public meeting it was decided that funds be raised and a statue be erected to honour Quintin MacKinnon.
MacKinnon’s discovery made it possible for people to walk relatively easily and safely through the lofty Fiordland mountains to Milford Sound via the famous Milford Track, later proclaimed to be the “finest walk in the world”. Only a few years after his discovery, MacKinnon started guiding people on the Milford Track. A surprising number of men and women completed this trip in those pre-Gore-Tex times of ties, hats and long skirts. Access to Milford by road only became possible in 1953 when the Homer Tunnel was completed.
MacKinnon’s venture was the beginning of the tourism activity in this area, today worth millions of dollars, and as somebody’s put it; “until the rediscovery of MacKinnon Pass, Te Anau slumbered on the edge of the unknown…” MacKinnon himself unfortunately went missing, presumably drowned, on Lake Te Anau in 1892.
Amongst many other fundraising events the (then) Fiordland Athletic Club decided to organise a race on Milford Track, which proved too much of a logistics nightmare. Instead they turned their attention to the Kepler Track, which was being built to relieve the pressure on the two Great Walks in the area; the Milford and the Routeburn Track. The Kepler Challenge name was chosen to express the fact that this was to be a race/challenge for all, not just the professionals and semi-professionals.
The race was run on 17 December 1988 with 149 runners competing. By then the Kepler Track was completed apart from 3km above the Luxmore Hut, which meant part of the course was run through virgin tussock. It was meant to be a one-off fundraiser but the response to it was such that the committee decided to continue to hold it and it has been run every year since then – it is now firmly established as the premier mountain running event in New Zealand. A shorter, gut-busting “sister” race was established later: the Luxmore Grunt is a 27km run up to Luxmore Hut and down again.
The first male and female runner to reach the Luxmore hut, earn a special prize, the title of the “King and Queen of the Mountain”. The veteran runners say that in the men’s field the King of the Mountain never goes on to win the Kepler Challenge…
The race trophy, a bronze running shoe, is a cast of the type of shoe used by Russell Prince, the winner of the first race.
In previous years the field, 450 in the Kepler Challenge, 150 in the Luxmore Grunt, has filled within a week of the entries opening in mid-winter. In 2006 the registrations went online for the first time and now the field fills in just minutes, demonstrating the popularity of the Kepler Challenge in New Zealand and abroad. The first race was also a successful fundraiser and today visitors are greeted by a lakefront statue of Quinton MacKinnon, gazing upon his beloved Lake Te Anau. Following in this vein, several people who complete the Challenge in recent years have done so as a means to fundraise for worthy causes.

Current Race Records
Kepler Challenge (60km)
4:37:41 – Phil Costley (2005)
5:23:34 – Zelah Morrall (2003)

Luxmore Grunt (27km)
1:52:30 Phil Costley (2008)
2:04:18 – Shireen Crumpton (1998)
Kepler Challenge
This event has been held annually since 1988, and as in previous years the route follows the 60km Kepler Track, one of the Great Walks in Fiordland National Park. The ASICS Kepler Challenge is the premier mountain run in New Zealand.

An easy 6km warm-up along the lake shore from the Control Gates on Lake Te Anau is followed by a steady 8.2km climb through native beech forest to the bushline and on to Luxmore Hut at 1085m. From the hut the course undulates across the tussock tops, ascending to 1400m and offering spectacular views of the South fiord of the lake and the Fiordland mountains. This is followed by a knee crunching descent to Iris Burn Hut via a series of steps and steep track sections, and then a journey down the Iris Burn Valley to Moturau Hut on Lake Manapouri. From there it is a 6km run to the last checkpoint at Rainbow Reach, and then the home straight undulates gently along the Waiau River from Rainbow Reach back to the Control Gates.
Luxmore Grunt
The Luxmore Grunt; the 27km sister race follows the first section of the Kepler Challenge from the Control Gates to Luxmore Hut and returns down the same route.
For more information about the track profile and map please refer to our website:

Our very own race commentator, Noel Walker, has written a book to celebrate the 25th running of the Kepler Challenge. This very entertaining book, “Calling Them Home”, launched in Te Anau on 14 November, 7pm at the Te Anau Club, Pop Andrew Drive.
All competing runners this year will receive a complimentary copy in their race pack.

Names to watch for this year 2012 ASICS Kepler Challenge

Vajin Armstrong of Christchurch was winner of the 2010 and 2011 ASICS Kepler Challenge and two times runner-up of the Tarawera Ultra. He also won the American River 50 in California this year. He will be back to defend his title.

Martin Lukes was second two years in a row and wants to go faster this year. This will be Martin’s 11th Challenge.

Tony Fattorini of New South Wales is back for his 5th Challenge. He has been 3rd three times in a row and fourth last year in a time of 5.23 and hopes to be fit enough to regain the top three.

Canterbury’s Grant Guise was 4th in 2010 and 5th last year in 5.29.41and estimates his time for this year’s event as 5.10.

Martin Cox from Leicester, England, is throwing his hat into the ring. He is a serious threat for the title. Martin has been a professional athlete since 1998 and was 2nd in the 2005 Kepler Challenge. He has won numerous mountain marathons in the European Alps.

Nick Hirschfeld from Hanmer in North Canterbury has been placed 3rd and 2nd in the last three Routeburn Classic mountain races. He is predicting a time of 5.15 for his 2012 ASICS Kepler Challenge.

Russell Hurring from Dunedin wants to help celebrate 25 years of Kepler Challenges by competing in his 11th challenge. Russell held the race record for 16 years. This year he is aiming for a time of 6 hours.

Jason Schlarb from the USA is competing in his first Kepler Challenge. He is an experienced ultra-trail runner.

Andrew Town from Sydney, Australia was a previous Luxmore Grunt winner and record-holder. This year he’s looking to take on the Challenge.

Malcolm and Sally Law from the 7 in 7 Challenge, return again to take a more leisurely run over the Kepler Track.

The competition for the 2012 ASICS Kepler Challenge Women’s title is promising to be intense this year, with two champions returning to take up the challenge to be first across the line.

Shireen Crumpton, who still holds the record for fastest woman home in the Luxmore Grunt which she set in 1998, returns to take on the challenge again. In 2010 Shireen took out the women’s title, but last year she had to pull out in the later stages of the race. Shireen has competed in the World Mountain Running Championship six times, 3 times NZ Marathon and 4 times Half-marathon Champion, and she was winner of the women’s title in the Auckland Marathon 2010.

After winning the women’s race in the ASICS Kepler Challenge last year, Victoria Beck is back to defend her title. Victoria won the open women’s section of the Mototapu off-road marathon this year.

Vanessa Harverd, 2009 winner and second in 2010 and 2011, is returning to try and claim the title again. Her estimated time is 6.10.

Elina Ussher, originally from Finland, is a professional adventure/multi-sport athlete. She has won the women’s race in the Coast to Coast twice and is keen to try out the 2012 ASICS Kepler Challenge.

Jess Simson won the Luxmore Grunt last year and is looking forward to the longer distance of the 2012 ASICS Kepler Challenge.

Sarah Biss from Rotorua ran a 2.39 marathon earlier this year in Rotterdam and is enjoying running more off road races now. The 2012 ASICS Kepler Challenge is on her bucket list and she is predicting a time of 6.00.02.

Luxmore Grunt

Nobby Clark is competing in his 23rd event; 3 Kepler Challenges and 20 Luxmore Grunts. His training involves a couple of runs a year and soccer coaching.

Stuart Doyle from Canberra, Australia is coming back to defend his title after winning this event in 2011.

Melissa Clarke from Canberra, Australia is a member of the Australian World Mountain running team and has been inspired to take on this event after hearing all about from her Aussie running mates, who keep coming back to Te Anau for this event every year.

Sarah Coghlan loves trail running in the Queenstown area and is looking forward to her race up to Mt Luxmore.




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