Back in 1985, the idea for a new circular track to celebrate the centenary of National Parks in New Zealand was born. With a government grant of $1.5million work on the Kepler Track began. To celebrate the completion of the track in 1988, three Fiordland College teachers decided to organise a one off event. On 17 December 1988, 149 carefully selected competitors completed the first Kepler Challenge.
"When the first Kepler Challenge was held in 1988 few realised that a dynasty was in the making" Noel Walker, Race Commentator. With the support of the Department of Conservation and the local community, the Kepler Challenge has become New Zealand's premier mountain run.
With a limited field of 450 runners, the event is both competitive and social. Elite runners will complete the 60km course in under five hours but most will take much longer. Starting at the Control Gates the Kepler Track travels goes through spectacular scenery, across tussock covered ridgelines with wonderful alpine views and through beech forest valleys, along a fast flowing river back to the Control Gates.
The Luxmore Grunt, a 27km run up to Luxmore Hut and back, was also introduced in 1988.
The Kepler Challenge and Luxmore Grunt now take place every year on the first Saturday in December. Such is the popularity of the events, that a ballot system is used to ensure that everyone has the same chance of securing a place in their chosen event.
The Kepler Challenge is highly addictive and numerous runners return every year to earn their 5, 10, and 20 year medals. To celebrate the 25th running of the event a book "Calling them home" was published and is available through our shop.
The Kepler Challenge is still a community-run event with everyone in Te Anau getting behind the event, creating a special atmosphere for the runners and their supporters.