For her 60th birthday, a woman from Morpeth, Northumberland in the United Kingdom got her wish to race through Middle-earth.
Stevie Matthews first heard of the race after competing in another marathon. “When I was in South Africa in 2001 for the Comrades Marathon, I was given a distance running magazine in a goodie bag,” she said. “This mentioned a New Zealand marathon called ‘Lord of the Rings.’”
“As a Tolkien fan since about 1960 and having recently seen the first of the famous film trilogy shot in the country, it became a must-do event,” explained Matthews. “Unfortunately, despite various emails to the Tourist Board and running clubs, nobody in New Zealand seemed to have any awareness of a ‘Lord of the Rings’ marathon.”
Her lucky break came in 2009 when she received a book on extreme running that contained the name of the race she was looking for. “The Kepler Challenge – the answer to my long-standing dream. Obviously, the South African magazine had used the term ‘Lord of the Rings’ figuratively rather than factually.”
The ASICS Kepler Challenge Mountain Run is described as “the jewel in New Zealand’s mountain running calendar” and has been held annually since 1988. Competitors start at the Control Gates of Lake Te Anau. Along the way, they have breathtaking views of the South Fiord, Lake Manapouri, and the Waiau River.
After a two-year struggle to obtain a much sought-after place in the marathon, Matthews got the good news. “It was the bester Easter surprise I ever received when on Easter Monday this year an email came through informing me that I have been given a special guest place – the 60th birthday party was on.”
The race took place on December 3, 2011 and Stevie Matthews raised funds to support the Easter Bush Veterinary Hospital and Animal Welfare Education and Research Centre in Edinburgh, as well as the Jitegemee Project to build a primary school complex in Tanzania. She finished the run in ten hours and fourty-two minutes, finishing in 116th place for women and 430th place overall.