Challenge Wanaka race director Victoria Murray-Orr. Photo
by Mark Price.
As chief organiser of the Challenge Wanaka endurance race
for the past six years, no-one has more involvement with the
event than race director Victoria Murray-Orr.
''It's part of my life. You are constantly at it. But it's
good. I wouldn't have it any other way. Love it.''
But the ever-positive Murray-Orr has plenty of stuff to be
worried about in the biggest Challenge yet.
The weather forecast is just average. The running course
alongside the Clutha River is flooded.
She needs a couple more volunteers on motorbikes. A few more
officials along the running course would help.
And another kayaker or two would make the difference.
But, there have always been problems of this sort and worse -
sponsors dropping out, retailers unhappy about street
closures, and a lack of support at times from some local
But the Challenge has not only gone on, it has mushroomed
into an event of national significance.
In 2008, the event's second year and Murray-Orr's first year
in charge, there were 112 individuals entered and 61 teams.
This year, more than 2000 athletes will take part in events
through the week of what is billed as New Zealand's largest
The flagship event, Challenge Wanaka itself, has 1500
athletes from 20 countries racing either half or full Ironman
Prize money totals $80,000.
Murray-Orr describes this as a record year for the event,
despite a clash of dates created by rival franchise Ironman
holding a new half-ironman in Auckland the day after the
Wanaka event, forcing athletes to choose one or other event.
''They created a clash. It was disappointing for the sport
because it forces athletes, sponsors, suppliers to choose,
when really, there's another 51 weekends in the year when it
''It's frustrating but at the end of the day, they do their
thing, we do ours.
''We know we have a spectacular course down here. I think the
athletes vote with their feet.''
Murray-Orr grew up in Devon and Cornwall, worked in public
relations in Bond St, London, and came to New Zealand 13
years ago for a three-month sabbatical.
She has been here ever since, working in the ski industry
until the opportunity to organise the Challenge came her way
six years ago.
''Right place, right time. It's one of those
once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that comes along and you
grab it with both hands.''
One of her biggest challenges each year is ''creating
The most obvious is the marquee on Pembroke Park, shipped in
''There's no infrastructure here in Wanaka that's big enough
to hold the event. So we have to build our own.
''Putting on an event here in a small town at the bottom of
New Zealand is challenging.
''We're a long way from any infrastructure.''
Murray-Orr says it is only because of the efforts of 700
volunteers that the event continues in Wanaka.
''Without them, Challenge Wanaka would not exist.''
She says race day will be a 24-hour affair for the ''core
team'' of race organisers but then, on Sunday night, it will
be time to relax and celebrate.
''And then we are back into it Monday, clearing up the park,
and then we have debriefs and our reports ...''
And, she says, that is also when planning will start for
Challenge Wanaka 2014.