Shotover Insights - 9 Questions with John Foster

John Foster on the Shotover Moonlight Course. Stoney Creek Water Race John Foster on the Shotover Moonlight Course. Stoney Creek Water Race

Shotover Insights will be a quick catch up with several people connected with organising or competing in the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon and Trail Run events in Queenstown, New Zealand.

In this first interview we catch up with farmer John Foster for his thoughts on the farm, the Shotover Moonlight race history and the course. John Foster and his wife Ginny are the proud owners and managers of Ben Lomond Station, their move to the high country 30 years ago has proved to be one full of exciting challenges and hard-earned rewards. Their three adult children, Hamish, Megan and Julia, grew up with the privilege of a 33,500 acre backyard which cultivated a lasting love of the outdoors.
1. The Shotover Moonlight is coming into its seventh year in 2018 and its popularity is increasing every year – from where did the concept originate?
We originally wanted to create an event to promote the ultrafine merino wool that we produce. We thought about starting this race for many many years, and through our relationship with John Knight at Outside Sports we brought in an event organiser for the last six years. Now as Hamish, Megan and Julia will all be back based in the South Island and it was the right time to bring the organisation into the family, and a great opportunity to use our collective skills to organise the event. We’re looking forward to sharing the spectacular landscapes that we are privileged to oversee with all the competitors.

2. What might a common work day involving some of the marathon course look like for you?
There is no typical day for me. However I’ve come down death ridge with a mob of sheep in the snow and ice glistening in the Moonlight. It’s not uncommon to be out on my feet for 8-10 hours and cover more than 30km in a day - much like the competitors on race day.

2. Based on the course you seem to have a pretty good understanding about the kind of experience trail runners enjoy. Do you have a background in trail running or outdoors activities yourself?
Not trail running exactly; however I have always ‘gone on missions’ - out for 12 hours, not always reaching the hut in time, and having to camp out somewhere sub-optimal. I have always enjoyed tramping, climbing and mountaineering.
4. If you had the opportunity to compete one year, what do you think your finish time would be – and more importantly, would you make the cut off?
Yes, definitely! Of course I’d make the cut off. The sheep are getting faster and faster - I have to jog to keep up with them these days as they travel over 5km per hour on rough country. So I’d probably say 8 hours. I think Antz has come up with an Instagram tag for the race called #runlikeamerino but I don’t really know what means.
5. There is an ever diminishing number of New Zealand high country properties owned and operated by Kiwis; what does it take to be able to survive out there alongside your hardy merinos?
When owning a high country station you certainly don’t earn a salary which would represent the hours you put in. It’s a 7 day a week operation, and it’s the love of the land which is why you do it. Someone might come out on a beautiful day and say ‘what an incredible place’, which of course it is, but equally there are plenty of unpleasant days out there, when I have to do unpleasant tasks. It’s a fantastic place to raise a resilient family.
6. Yes, and now your adult children Hamish, Megan and Julia are working alongside you to run Shotover Moonlight, along with their spouses Rachael, Antz and Sam. Do you get out on adventures with them and your grandchildren?
Well, 18 months ago I took Megan out for a training mission while she prepared for competing in GODZone. After a fairly hard day out on some seriously steep terrain she said that her children wouldn’t be allowed to go for a walk with Poppa until they are about 40 years old…
7. Which section of the full marathon and 30km course is your personal favourite, and which do you think is the toughest?
The nicest ridge is along the top of the point block (29km into the 42km), and the start of the water race up Stoney creek is spectacular (3km into both 42 and 30km races). I think the toughest section of the marathon is from where the two races split apart in Murpheys creek, going up Long Spur and over and down Death Ridge.
8. Ben Lomond Station is steeped in gold mining history. Will runners have the opportunity to experience much of this in February?
They certainly go past the old dredges and boiler in the Shotover River, and throughout the course they are on several water races. They’ll go past an old gold mining dam and tunnel, as well as the historic Sefferstown settlement - in fact the half marathon course passes this and the tunnel too.
9. You know the course and the terrain like the back of your hand – what would be your top tip for competitors to consider in their training?

Train on rough terrain. I spend my whole life walking around these hills, and fit young people can’t keep up. If you train on tarseal roads and expect to do well, you will be mistaken.

Share »

Shotover Moonlight Events


Accommodation Packages

Are you entering the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon, 30km, half marathon or 10km race? 

Would you like to helicopter to the start?

You could stay at either Ben Lomond Lodge or Moonlight Lodge the night before the race.

Leave your car at the finish line at Moke Lake and we'll take you into our lodges for a fantastic meal and great company. 

2018 Race and Supporters Packages to be announced.
Packages include transport to either Ben Lomond or Moonlight Lodge, dinner, bed, breakfast and a stunning helicopter flight to the start of the race.

There is now a waitlist for spaces at Ben Lomond & Moonlight Lodges to add your name to a list please contact

Be in the know - sign up for updates.

Stay updated with news from the Shotover Moonlight races by signing up below. We'll keep you in the know with race details, sponsor offers, and key information to help you plan and train for race day.

* indicates required