Stevie takes on Lord of the Rings challenge

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A MORPETH long-distance runner has gone to the other side of the world for her latest challenge.

It was the fictional Middle Earth that inspired Stevie Matthews to visit New Zealand for the 60km event that has a time limit of 12 hours.

As well as celebrating her 60th birthday, the Morpeth Town Council Office Manager is running for two good causes.

Participants negotiate a beautiful and difficult course from the shores of Lake Te Anau up very steep ascents and descents along exposed, glacial alpine ridges, forests, valleys and finally along the shores of Lake Manapouri back to the start.

Explaining how she got involved, Mrs Matthews said: “When I was in South Africa in 2001 for the Comrades Marathon, I was given a distance running magazine in a goodie bag. 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.

“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.

“In 2009, Jane Walker of Northumbria Mountain Sports Centre gave me a book on extreme running and what did I find?

“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.

“Then began a two-year struggle to convince the organisers to obtain a place, rather than the free-for-all on the internet, when all 450 places are snapped up within 10 minutes of going live.

“It was the best Easter surprise I ever received when on Easter Monday this year an e-mail came through informing me that I had been given a special guest place – the 60th birthday party was on.”

Funds raised in sponsorship will go to the Easter Bush Veterinary Hospital and Animal Welfare Education and Research Centre in Edinburgh, known as the ‘Dick Vet’, and the Jitegemee Project to build a primary school complex in Tanzania.

Residents can pick up a sponsor form at Morpeth Town Hall during opening hours.