A man and his mission to run around the lake

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Call him the Forrest Gump of Queens­town.

On April 16 this year, multisport organiser Geoff Hunt set out on his one-man mission – a 206 kilometre run around Lake Wakatipu.

Within days, however, news of his personal challenge had spread like wildfire.

Now, eight months later, he and 45 other locals are about to finish running or walking round the lake.

When running the first leg from Queenstown Bay to his Kelvin Peninsula home, Hunt, 56, says he had no idea so many people would want to emulate his challenge.

First to join him was Tony Hill, who ran the same route the next day.

The day after, another mate Lindsay Williams, also ran the same route then joined Hunt and Hill on a second leg towards Jack’s Point.

Eight days later, Hunt told his multisport mate, 61-year-old Tom Pryde – who’d swum the length of the lake in a relay two years earlier – what he’d started doing.

Pryde: “My reaction was, ‘You bastard, Geoff, you should have rung me 10 years ago when I could still run’.
“But then a light flicked on, and I asked Geoff, ‘Can we walk it?’”

Next afternoon, after mentioning the idea to likeminded chums, Pryde rocked up at the start line along with 11 other mates.

Then before long, the challenge, dubbed the Lake Wakatipu Circumnavigation on Foot Adventure, had been taken up by six runners and 40 walkers – almost all couples, with an average age of about 55.

Pryde: “All the wives have jumped in – some aren’t so passionate about sport, but they’re all passionate about this circumnavigation.”

When they parked up their challenge at the start of the ski season, most of the circumnavigators had reached a spot seven kilometres past Kingston.

When they resumed in spring, Hunt says they initially skipped Mt Dick because it had too much snow – most have returned to climb it during the past two weekends.

“Some of those who’ve climbed it never thought they could,” Hunt says.

Mt Dick is one of two spots where the runners/walkers have had to leave the lake edge – the other was between Halfway Bay and Cecil Peak, where they went up the Lochy River then down Collins Creek.

Some also rafted across Dart River rather than get their feet wet.

Hunt says most people have broken up their challenge into 14 legs, generally undertaken during weekends – “some legs have been two hours or less for runners, other legs 12 hours for walkers.”

They’ve used various boats, includ­ing the Earnslaw and Queens­town Water Taxis jetboats, to reach or depart from various points around the lake.

“Landowners we’ve obtained permission from have been fantastic,” Pryde says.

Hunt and Pryde say the social aspect has been prominent – they’ve hit every coffee stop they can, while many enjoyed an overnight stay at Green­stone Station’s shearers’ quarters.

Most runners/walkers are aiming to complete their last legs, from Glenorchy to Queenstown, in time for a party at Pryde’s place on December 20.

Hunt’s got no idea whether anyone’s circumnavigated the lake before – but don’t be surprised if the challenge is now taken up by even more people in years to come.