Setting challenging goals to achieve is nothing new for Jackie Read.
The 36-year-old reached the pinnacle in surf lifesaving when she won an individual title, along with relay and overall team golds, in the New Zealand team's historic world title victory in 1998.
But family has been her priority in recent years, although she did prepare well for last year's Ironman New Zealand in Taupo, which was abandoned. Read says she has been trying to find a new challenge and the solution came to her one day while running around the Tauranga estuary.
"I really felt I needed a goal to keep me running because I love running, but the hardest thing is getting out the door. I needed something that excited me and was achievable with a busy family, so when I was running that day I thought I will run another marathon.
"I have run two before but I didn't know if I was that excited about doing just a marathon, so I came up with the idea of running one a month for six months.
"Once I had made my mind up, that was that. It sounded challenging, and a little bit ridiculous but I had no excuses, so that was all it took for me." Read is not sure what to enter in February but has sorted out the other five marathons. Saturday's Trail Run is the first, followed by the Tokoroa Taniwha, The Wanganui Three Bridges, the Tarawera Ultra 60km and finishing with the Rotorua Marathon, which she ran two years ago.
A marathon on flat terrain is tough going for any athlete but it is a much harder assignment on the undulating Karangahake Gorge course.
It will be a trip into the relative unknown for Read, although she has had a good look at the course.
"I have not done any trail runs before, so that just added a bit more excitement to the event. It is going to be excellent. There is a tunnel where you need a head lamp at some stage of the course.
"I ran half of the course a few weeks ago and I absolutely loved it. Some of the hills are so steep you are crawling up them. There are river crossings, which is something I have never done before, and that was awesome.
"I will definitely be an amateur on the course but the pure satisfaction of achieving something I thought couldn't be achieved will be awesome."
When it comes to scenic beauty, rugged terrain, and a choice of five different events to suit all athletic capabilities, the XTERRA Trail Run Challenge on Saturday is hard to beat.
The event is held in and around the historic Karangahake Gorge and offers runners a unique mix of tramping, rail and tramway tracks completely surrounded in native bush. The old train tunnels in the area are also included in the various courses, giving competitors a unique running experience.
Athletes of all levels of fitness have the choice of five different events covering modest to extreme distances - Short (7.3km), Mid (13km), Long (19km), Marathon (42.2km) and Ultra (60km). Late entries will be accepted at the event base, Dickey Flat Campground from 6am. See more information at www.trailrun.co.nz.