Shotover Insights - 6 Questions with Mal & Sally Law

Shotover Insights - Mal & Sally Law - Running Wild & Wild Things

Mal and Sally Law have become household names in the New Zealand trail running community. From the now very successful project to develop the Wild Things Trail Running club, Mal's exploits with 50 Peaks, 50 Days and Chasing the Dragon around Wales. They've also been regulars at the Shotover Moonlight since it's inception, so we thought we'd check in with them about their thoughts on the race and course.

1. You are well and truly part of the Shotover Moonlight family after racing every year since 2012. As the Fosters we love to host you and your crew each year at Ben Lomond Lodge, and to see you out on the course on race day. What is it about the event that keeps you coming back?

Mal: The combination of awesome terrain, varied trail and one of the ultimate challenges in NZ mountain running. Also, if I’m honest, the fact that my good mate James Harcombe & I are the only two people to have started every Shotover Moonlight Marathon and until he drops I won’t!

Sally: There is so much that I love about this event – where to start? I think above all, it’s not just another event – it’s a total adventure which begins well before the Race Director says GO!. Even if you don’t take the helicopter option to the start line the early morning drive through Skipper’s canyon will ensure the sleepiest of competitors are alert. Then there’s the walk to the start line across the swing bridge dangling high above the Shotover river. Oh yes, then there’s the course itself (a gnarly workout over varied and spectacular terrain) and of course a large dose of warm southern hospitality.

2. There are now so many fantastic trail running events in New Zealand. It must be a challenge to choose which ones you will enter. How do you decide which events are for you?

Mal: I love new trail experiences so inaugural races are always a draw. To get me coming back to any race time and again, as I do the SMM it takes that special blend of great trail, awesome scenery, good organisation and that indefinable ‘spirit’ or X Factor that only a few events truly have.

Sally: So true. With many passionate organisers and gorgeous locations we are totally spoilt for choice. I guess now that I’ve done quite a few some resonate and I find myself drawn back over and over. For me the enthusiasm and energy of organisers is contagious. I enjoy feeling like I’m running in the wilderness and especially over a traverse or sweet ridgeline along the tops. Get high, stay high!

3. You are the enthusiastic and inspiring people behind Running Wild ( and the growing Trail Run club ( ) and you seem to have a solid grasp about what makes trail runners tick. What aspects of the Shotover Moonlight do you think particularly appeal to Wild Things?

Mal: Trail runners generally love a genuine challenge and are suckers for awe-inspiring scenery - the SMM ticks both these boxes. But I think it’s also the fact that they get to run on land not generally accessible to the public and the whole ’southern hospitality’ atmosphere that has built up around the event.  

Sally: The Shotover Moonlight course is a truly challenging one and it will never be said that it is boring!! It will also never offer up a marathon PB to anyone other than someone who is brave enough to choose it as their very first marathon. BUT it will be memorable for the privilege of running through privately owned, stunning back country and it will be some of the best fun ever had in the outdoors.

4. Your website talks about your followers being 'wild about trail running', and encouraging runners of all levels to explore and share beautiful trails. We feel the same way about sharing our incredible backyard with people from all around New Zealand and the world on race day. Do you see the marathon course as suitable for any of your Wild Runners, or would you recommend the 30km as a great option for an adventurous but more achievable day out?

Mal: I wouldn’t call the Marathon course a beginner’s course! But that said I think it’s achievable for anyone who is reasonably fit, strong-minded and willing to give it a go. I’d never try to dissuade anyone from giving it a crack unless I thought it was way beyond their current level of experience or fitness. It’s great that SMM does offer the shorter courses too and these can make great ‘stepping stones’ for those whose ultimate ambition is the Marathon.

Sally: Generally speaking I wouldn’t recommend the 42km event to someone brand new to trail running, the trails are technical and the many hills can be daunting. However, absolutely yes, the 30km event is a great option for Wild Things looking for adventure but cautious about jumping straight in the marathon option.

5. We love to showcase our little piece of spectacular high country, and in particular to feed off the immense satisfaction we see in our finishers – as simply completion is a massive achievement for Shotover Moonlight. Your times are usually in the 5 ½ to 7 hour range - which for SMMM are awesome, but obviously would be pretty slow for many other marathons! What advice could you give about finish time expectations to first time racers who have a few other marathons under their belt?

Mal: The conventional wisdom seems to be to take your expected road marathon time and double it - this is a pretty good formula I think. But if someone struggles with technical trail I’d probably be telling them to add a bit more time on as well!

Sally: Hahaha, I’d say forget any previous marathon times! This one is more like an ultra – in fact to put it in perspective, my fastest Kepler Challenge (60km) time is about 3 minutes quicker than my fastest Shotover Moonlight time.

6. Do you have a favourite section of the course, and which bit do you see as most challenging?

Mal: My favourite would have to be that short but wonderful scree run down into the river bed - I smile & scream all the way down it every year (and often pick up a couple of places too!) The most challenging part for me is that final steep descent to the stock bridge - a killer for tired quads.

Sally: Ooooh, being a ridgeline lover I’d say the plunge down off Death Ridge and also the rocky up-and-over between the 2 lodges would be my favourite sections. Toughest is probably working all the way up from Ben Lomond Lodge to the last highest point, but then again the steep, dry, skiddy, drop down to the stock bridge on tired legs is tough too…..

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Shotover Moonlight Events


Accommodation Packages

Are you entering the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon, 30km, half marathon or the Moke Lake Run? 

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. 

2020 Race Accommodation Packages - Sold Out.
Packages include 2 nights accommodation, transport to either Ben Lomond or Moonlight Lodge, 2 x dinner, 2x breakfast and a stunning helicopter flight to the start of the race.

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