Big miles: Stefan Heinrich training near Skippers Canyon


A Queenstown carpenter’s transforming his body for the challenge of his life.

Stefan Heinrich says he ‘‘caught the bug’’ when he ran the 15km Miners Trail at last year’s Motatapu multisport event, and decided to give himself a bigger challenge.

The keen outdoorsman decided he’d prefer to run in the backcountry than on roads, so decided to give the 52.5km ultra run a crack.

The 30-year-old Englishman began training in earnest in October, going on solo training runs that he’s stretched out to four hours in length so far.

He’ll ramp those up to eight hours as race day on March 6 approaches, which is about how long he hopes it will take him to finish.

The rugged course requires more than 3330 vertical metres of climbing as it follows the Department of Conservation’s Motatapu Track from Glendhu Bay, near Wanaka, to Arrowtown.

Heinrich, who moved to the resort in 2015, has never been a slug.

After hanging up his football boots a few years ago he turned to CrossFit and weight training to stay in shape.

But his physique’s undergoing another reshaping since he began serious training, shedding about 10% of his former weight so far and dropping the kilos week by week as he steps up the miles.

He’s been swotting up on training methods and nutrition, as well as tapping into the experience of a workmate, Lewis Latham, who’s also training for an ultra event.

‘‘One of the hardest things I’ve found is practising during my runs to take enough calories … it’s a lot harder than you might think.

‘‘The last thing you want to be doing is eating, but you have to or you’ll hit the wall.’’

However, he knows he’s in for a mental test as much as a physical one, ‘‘with those peaks and troughs throughout the race’’.

Since Ironman Group sold the 15-year-old event to locals Gemma Peskett and Craig Gallagher in October, the pair have stripped it back from seven events over two days to four events on one day.

Gallagher tells Mountain Scene he’s received more than 100 entries for the ultra run, but there are still places left.