Mal Law fought back tears describing how Thursday’s chopper crash near Queenstown made a tough day even tougher.
Excruciating knee pain forced the Wanaka charity runner to abandon part of his mission - to run 50 mountain marathons in 50 days.
On day 14, he accepted he would have to climb the peaks at walking pace and not complete the full marathon distance.
His assault on Ben Lomond on Friday was made doubly hard after good friend and fellow runner Steve Combe was killed the previous day.
“He [Combe] was our leader for the day for Monday,” Law said on Friday morning.
“He’s just an absolutely wonderful, wonderful human being who was a massive supporter of this project.”
Law started to say it was inconceivable his friend would not be there on Monday – but broke off, pointing to the sky.
“He is - he’s going to be here.”
Combe had been friends with Mal and Sally Law since 2009, and he was a huge supporter of Mal’s efforts on behalf of the Mental Health Foundation.
The couple dedicated Monday’s trek up Dragonfly Peak, deep in Aspiring National Park, to Combe.
Combe and the Laws took a training hike up Dragonfly Peak with the Laws last December.
Sally Law says the trio “laughed, talked, played in the snow, picked flowers and saw wild chamois”.
She adds: “What a gift to us to have had that special time with him on that peak.”
Combe’s wife Stephanie joined Law on his Mt Pisa climb yesterday.
On the High Five-O Challenge blog, she said: ”At first I didn’t know if I could do it but then I just got a real sense that it was the right thing to do. I know Steve would want me to do it.
“I’m doing it for Steve, for everyone who’s pledged but also for everyone around the world who’s going through a tough time like me. This is what it’s like; this is where the rubber meets the road.”
Law’s buoyed by the fact the High Five-O challenge has raised more than $345,000 for the Mental Health Foundation.
His story’s an inspiration for many, the challenge drawing support from around New Zealand and overseas.
Law thought his body would hold up better.
“It’s massively frustrating because after two years of intense training with not a single injury and very early on it lets me down.
“That’s OK - I’ve got to just put one foot in front of the other, keep plodding, revise plans as we go, and do something worthwhile each day.”
Now, the focus is on the big picture.
“My pride’s a temporary thing,” he says with a grin. “My pride will heal in time.”