Extreme runners take on brutal race up Central Otago peak

When you think of Mt Difficulty, the renowned Central Otago winery might pop into your head.

But for some extreme runners, they've eyed up that peak as the perfect marathon race.

Around 200 are set to line up for the Mt Difficulty Ascent tomorrow, featuring some of the steepest climbs in Australasia.

Marathons are known to test you mentally and physically but as race organiser Terry Davis explains, this one, is something else.

"If you're on the correct route you're fine if you deviate from the route two or three metres you could fall to your death." says Davis.

And he isn't joking. The Mt Difficulty ascent is 44 kilometres of pure and utter pain.

"You climb a vertical 500 metres in one kilometre of travel so you need to use your hands," says Davis.

The total elevation is 3200 metres up trackless terrain.

Some can climb to the top in close to an hour but the pain doesn't stop there, they then have nine hours to compete the ultimate marathon mission.

Vickey Havill will be competing in her first Mt Difficulty Ascent.

"There's a big chance with this one I might not finish," she says.

"It could be the first event where I actually get my first DNF and that means I have to comeback and try again next year," Havill smiles.

On the other spectrum there's seasoned veterans like Christchurch's Grant Guise, he can clock it in just over five hours.

"A far as I'm the only one I guess that's stupid enough to do all of them, that just keeps coming back!

"It was never the intention, but after a couple of years I realised I did 6 or 7 so i was like i kind of need to keep coming back now," says Guise.

But what's even crazier is how the event came about.

The idea starting all the way back in 2013 following Team New Zealand's disastrous campaign in San Francisco.

"We were up 8-nil and then we lost 9-8!" says Davis.

"I just couldn't get over that, I needed to do something. So I picked the hardest line and and I hiked up that and thought, yeah we should do a race here," says Davis.

Almost a decade on from that pain he's still suffering but with hundreds of others.

All for a kind of pain they thrive off.