It is rare that finishing last in anything is considered a great achievement.
But for the Buchanan family, completing the extreme Shotover Moonlight Marathon together was just that.
Queenstown dentist Dr Ross Buchanan, wife Polly and daughter Gabby took on the inaugural mountain run last Saturday alongside a field stacked with international athletes.
They finished the 42km race in just over 10 hours, walking the arduous route together until the last few kilometres – when Gabby sprinted off.
Buchanan says: “At the start we looked around and there were all these very good local athletes or internationals, and then us the Buchanans – in a league of our own.
“It was an amazing event to be part of and I just about died doing it.
“It was very hard. In parts it was more mountaineering than a marathon.
“There were some really treacherous areas with hundreds of metre falls, where if you got it wrong you were over the edge a long way down. We’ve run marathons before and thought we’d be able to hike it in eight hours, but we were wrong.
“We got a little caught up in it at the start, with the helicopters flying over, and ran a little bit but the first hill stopped us.”
The Buchanans were among 65 competitors, including internationals and committed locals, who took on the tough race.
The marathon ran from the Pipeline Bungy site in Skippers Canyon via the Shotover River and Moonlight Track to Moke Lake – along old mining trails, rivers and narrow ridges.
British mountain running champion Martin Cox won the race in an incredible 4hr 30min 06sec. Second home was Cantabrian Grant Guise, in 4:52, third was Andrew Town, of Wanaka. Queenstowner Jim Hawkridge was fourth.
World-ranked Anna Frost, from Dunedin, was the first woman home, in a time of 5:15.
Ross, 50, Polly, 49, and Gabby, 18, of Speargrass Flat, were elated to be involved.
Buchanan says: “We’re very grateful to Adrian Bailey, the race organiser, that he enabled us to walk it. It was a huge thrill just to be part of it and the volunteers who followed behind us to check we were ok were fantastic.
“We’re a very energetic family. We do marathons, the Motatapu and Hawea Epic on mountain bikes, and both girls have rowed at a national level – but this was something else. I take my hat off to anyone who ran it,” he says.
“Gabby had a sudden surge of adrenalin or something and was off like a rat up a drainpipe for the last few kilometres.
“It happens every year. I’m always in front of them when we’re training for something and then it gets to race day and they kill me. They always do it.”