A world-first running experience hits the start line in Queenstown this weekend, the brainchild of a ‘serial entrepreneur’ who came up with the idea during New Zealand’s first lockdown.
Official Tracks has been unveiled as runners from around New Zealand were forced to miss out on the postponed Queenstown Marathon.
Queenstown entrepreneur Tuki Huck came up with the idea 18 months ago as he watched running race cancellations around the world. Sporting events were suspended, but many people reconnected with the importance of exercising for wellbeing with record numbers taking up walking, running and cycling.
Like all good ideas, the concept is ostensibly simple, but clever.
Official Tracks has taken existing technology pioneered by global sports timing business Mylaps and created an innovative new way for everyday athletes to race their own race any time they choose.
Combining an official track with an official time, timing gates have been installed outside Queenstown’s Hilton Hotel and on Marine Parade in the resort’s downtown area.
Official Tracks timing chips can be bought online, from the Wakatipu Grill at the Hilton Hotel, Frontrunner Frankton or Frontrunner Queenstown. Runners register their timing chip online, then it’s a case of simply choosing a track and crossing the start line at either of the two gates.
Performances are automatically recorded on the Official Tracks leaderboards when runners pass a second gate, with the option to run a 2.4km, 5km, 10km, 18km or 36km track.
The leaderboards create an online community where runners can compete and grow, and the technology even records individual personal best times (PB’s).
Tahitian-born Tuki has lived in Queenstown for six years, although he has long thought of Queenstown as ‘home’ as his parents owned a holiday house in the resort for 30 years.
“We used to come here every school holiday and I was one of the first international students at Queenstown Primary School,” he says. “After 15 years in the events and tech industries I finally came back here to live.”
With three other businesses either in hibernation or badly affected by Covid, he launched a ski luge business this winter and says Official Tracks will keep him busy over summer.
“The funny part is that I’m not even a runner, so it’s a bit challenging having to run some of my tracks in testing, with no training. But like anyone else with the timing chip I can take my time, run when I want and achieve a milestone, that’s part of the magic of it.
“There’s no doubt some more dedicated runners will use it as a training tool and to engage in some local competition, as will visiting groups.”
Queenstown is the first destination Official Tracks is launching in, with plans to “take it to the world.”
“Queenstown has some stunning tracks alongside the lake so it makes sense to use it as a launch pad for the business,” says Tuki. “Official Tracks is a great way to get out and explore the Queenstown trails.”
Local investor and financial advisor Jonathan Gurnsey is on board as an initial mentor and investor in the business.
“The simplicity of the idea is part of its appeal,” says Jonathan. “Tuki is a cool guy with a lovely idea that supports Queenstown in the first instance but also has real global potential,” he says.
Others supporting the venture include Hilton Hotel General Manager Chris Ehmann and Frontrunner director Paul Garvie.
Official Tracks launches on December 4, with runners encouraged to get their hands on early release timing wristbands and be one of the first on the leaderboard.