Testing his vertical limits: James Harcombe

A Queenstown ultra-runner’s tackling the “crazy” challenge of running/power-hiking 30,500 vertical metres – or 100,000 feet – over the month of November to raise money for mental health.

James Harcombe, 54, is following in the well-trodden footsteps of Wanaka’s Mal Law, who’s aiming to notch up 305,000 vertical metres – or one million feet – this calendar year while also raising $100,000 for the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand (MHF).

Welsh-born Harcombe two years ago smashed the record for the fastest circumnavigation of Wales – running 1742km in 25 days.

He originally ran with Law, but the latter missed some of the run due to injury.

Alongside the run, both men also fundraised for MHF and a British mental health charity.

For his latest challenge, Harcombe has to average just over 7000 vertical metres a week, or about 1000m a day.

“I’m probably going to do four to five days of running a week, so some will obviously have to be a lot more than 1000m.”

He’ll spend a bit of time on Queenstown’s Ben Lomond but also plans a mission similar to what he accomplished in May, when he went up all the named peaks visible from the Wakatipu Basin in about 25 hours, over two days.

He says the secret to uphill running is “short, quick strides, and rhythm”.

He’ll “power-hike” steep slopes, as he did when tackling, twice, Cromwell’s Northburn ‘100 miler’.

Going back-to-back for four weeks “is going to be real hard, for sure, and I’m working, as well”.

Harcombe’s also hoping to raise $5000 for MHF to assist Law’s target.

He’s lost four friends and family members to suicide, so says the issue’s had a major impact on him.

His challenge, he says, can be likened to battling mental health problems – “putting yourself in a hard place and getting through”.

His fundraising page is on