Making his Mark

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Shop boss tackles Himalayas and mountain bike marathons.

Queenstown action man Mark Williams doesn’t do anything by halves.

Conquering daunting personal challenges seems to be in his blood. And no matter what he tackles, he pushes himself to the max.

He helped start the popular R & R Sport store in Shotover Street from scratch four years ago and drive it into a thriving business.

But in his spare time, the busy shop boss still finds time for plenty of pedal power.

Williams, 35, sometimes cycles up to 500km a week in all weathers on some of the Wakatipu’s most demanding routes, such as the Remarkables and Crown Range roads.

Oh, and as well as also being a former local multi-sports champ, he just happens to have climbed world-famous mountains in the Himalayas and the Andes, plus scaled some of New Zealand’s best-known peaks.

“Outdoor sport and competition is what I’ve always done,” Williams shrugs. “I suppose I just can’t help it.”

His gruelling training regime paid off big-style last August when he and brother Simon finished 12th out of 300 top teams competing in the seven-day TransRockies mountain bike race in Canada.

It’s rated among the toughest in the world, with riders climbing the equivalent height of Mount Everest – twice.

“I suppose it was a bit of an achievement, considering it was our first go at it and the Top 10 finishers were all professionals,” says Williams modestly.

“What wasn’t fair is my brother lives in Canada and did his training during the summer while at the same time I was slogging it up the Crown Range in the snow and frost in the middle of our winter.”

The result has given him the racing bug again.

Williams is gearing up for the South Island’s inaugural Skins Alpine Epic – a multi-stage, 259km mountain bike race between Mount Somers and Tekapo, from February 25-28.

And as an active member of the Wakatipu Cycling Club, he’ll also be getting in a few summer races locally.

Originally from Manchester in England, Williams moved to Queenstown in 1998 with his now wife Lucy after a spell living and working in the ski resort of Banff, Canada.

“I originally came here to climb the likes of Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring,” he says. “I’d already been climbing in the Andes in South America and wanted to get a few other big peaks in.

“Then in 2002 I got the opportunity to go to the Himalayas to climb Makalu.

“Because of the extreme cold and the altitude I didn’t get to the top. We turned back at 8100 metres, but it was an incredible experience.

“Climbing then took a bit of a backseat for me. It’s hard to emulate that kind of thing.”

Williams started out in the resort as one of the first barmen at Irish pub Pog Mahones in Rees Street, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.

But it wasn’t long before he landed a job doing what he likes best – flogging outdoor gear – firstly at Outdoor Sports, which was then situated at the top of Queenstown Mall.

“I’ve always gravitated towards working in gear shops,” he says.

“It’s something I did when I was a student at university in Newcastle in Britain in the 1990s and carried on over to Canada and other places I’ve lived before coming here.”

He reckons it’s a business that attracts like-minded types.

“Quite a few people who’ve turned up looking for work in Queenstown I’ve met before while working at other gear shops around the world.”

Williams adds: “I’ve always enjoyed selling equipment that I love and use myself. I have a real passion for the job.
“I suppose I’m lucky in the respect that I get paid for doing my hobby.”