My 20 Week Challenge Journey

One of the (many) great things about living in New Zealand (aside from the lack of snakes, spiders and leeches!) is the 20 Week Challenge. This is my 6th 20 week challenge, and while my results have been a bit hit and miss, it can be a real motivator and a life changing experience.

My first challenge in 2012 I didn’t really know what I was getting myself in for. I’d seen posters around for it but thought it was some small local challenge with only maybe 100 people entering – boy was I wrong! I didn’t put in the effort required and was blown away by some of the results I saw at the awards night.

In 2013 I went in with a  completely different mindset. I was ready to do this and win. I set myself some challenging goals and went out and smashed them. This was the beginning of my running/fitness obsession and I won the cardio category.

My 3rd challenge in 2014 started with a bang. I set myself the goal of running a marathon at the end of the year, but first I wanted to go out and set some personal bests – specifically I wanted to run a sub 2 hour half marathon. And I did. But that was the race where I got injured – 3 days later I could barely walk. So I pulled out of the challenge.

In 2015, the organiser (Super Woman Broni Mc!) introduced a recovery category for people like me who were recovering from injury or illness. So my last 2 challenges (2015 and 2016) I have been entered in the rocking recovery category.

I’ve had a number of setbacks over the last 2 years. Some of my own making (from overdoing exercise, or not doing my physio exercises) and some just out of the blue. My recovery hasn’t gone the way I wanted and it’s been quite demoralising. So for 2017 I’ve decided NOT to enter the recovery category. Mostly for mental reasons more than anything. I think you (or me anyway) think differently when you are in “recovery mode” and after 2 years I’m just over being in recovery.

I want to set some BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). I want goals that are challenging, and a little bit scary. I want goals that are going to be a stretch to achieve. That I’m going to have to work for. I want to feel like I’m living my life again and not just recovering from an injury.

So for 2017 my focus is on getting myself photo fit. My first blog ( was originally called Emily’s Running Adventures, and the reason it worked was because it was an adventure. I think why I loved the running so much was because I was out having adventures. It was fun, and that meant I had something to write about and share. And I had something to look forward to. Most of my runs weren’t just going out and running around the block for 5km (although there were a few of those. We ran up mountains, along the beach, down mountain biking tracks (that one was a bit crazy in hindsight!). I ran in Christchurch, Blenheim, Mt Cook and North Canterbury. I want to do all of those things again – but instead of running them I want to walk them and capture them properly. The scenery around here is amazing. The views from the top of Mt Thomas were stunning. The ones from the top of Rapaki, and along the summit road aren’t bad either. And these places, these views are all right in my backyard.

For the past couple of years I’ve said if I can’t run, I’ll set cycling goals – even though I can’t think of anything more boring! But the problem was I was setting the wrong kind of goals. I was picking 100km road cycling events to do, and of course never did them (again demoralising) because I was doing them for the sake of having a goal. But those goals weren’t suited to me and what I enjoy. So, if my ankle decides not to play ball and allow me to walk to all the places I want to walk (I’ll detail my list in an upcoming blog post) then I’ll bike – mountain bike.

The 20 week challenge has an early start option, which I’ve chosen to enter. So my current plan is broken up into 2 stages. Stage 1 is early start and then stage 2 is the 20 week challenge itself. Each has it’s own (related) BHAG.

  1. Early Start Goal: Devil’s Punchbowl, Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand (8 April, 2017)
  2. 20 week Goal: Wineglass Bay walk, Tasmania, Australia (September, 2017)
  3. Plan B goal: Ride the Otago Rail Trail, New Zealand (September 2017)

All of these goals are challenging and a stretch. Given that I haven’t done any regular strenuous exercise for the last 2.5 years my fitness levels are currently sitting at about 1 out of 10. Add to that, I’m currently the heaviest weight I’ve ever been. So my plan for the next few months is to focus on getting fit enough to be able to go on all of the photo adventures that I want to. Last week a fellow photography club member asked if anyone wanted to go for a hike up Mt Peel. I would love to be in a position to be able to just say “Yup, I’m in let’s go”.


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