After being involved in trail running for about 25 years and watching the sport grow in popularity, Wanaka’s Malcolm Law realised there was a gap in the market for a comprehensive online mapping system.
Trail information on existing websites was usually based around hiking or mountain biking, rather than being “run-centric,” and he spent his time poring over maps to find potential trails, he said.
“I thought, there’s got to be a better way than this.”
Along with his wife, Sally, also a keen trail runner, Mr Law founded Wild Things NZ Trail Running Club.
The pair spent about six months working with a web-designer to upload trail information before the site went live nine months ago.
“When we first launched the trail guide we had 200 different runs.
“We now have over 500 all around the country.”
The vast majority of information on the website is free to access and anyone is able to submit a new trail or leave reviews.
Runs were broken into 10 different grades depending on factors such as distance, terrain, and technicality.
Each trail also featured a “grunt” and “gnarl” factor, along with reviews and extra information, including suggested gear lists, whether the trail was dog-friendly, and the best places to eat afterwards.
Feedback so far had been very positive and the goal was to have 1000 runs featured by the end of next year, he said.
“People absolutely love it.
“I knew there was a gap in the market but probably the feedback has been even better than I expected.
“One reason we’ve developed so much information is trail running as a sport has grown immensely in the last five years.”
About half the Wild Things members had been trail running for less than five years, he said.
When he chatted to runners about what they enjoyed about the sport, the words “freedom” and “adventure” were a common theme.
“I think it’s the gratification that people find that comes from it.
“It’s not a sport that requires a lot of equipment.
“It’s a very easy, pure experience. I think more and more people are seeing that.”
There was also a strong sense of community within running networks, something Wild Things tried to emulate through its website and Facebook page.
“People are there to support and help one another.
“That community can sometimes be harder to find in other sports.”
Sharing information online also ensured people were properly equipped and prepared to venture out on to new tracks, he said.
“What we’re trying to do is give them the confidence to go and explore.”
The online mapping project had been a long-held dream, he said.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
“It’s a bit of a legacy project.
“The sport has given me so much satisfaction and rewards over the years, I wanted to create something to give back to the people who love the sport.”