Hot sun at the start and a strong head-on breeze for the last few kilometres did little to deter the 386 walkers and runners who took part in the 24th annual Papatowai Challenge last Saturday.
Second-place walker Karla Gilder, of Kaka Point, said it was a tougher race than last year but she felt her second placing behind walking winner Amanda Waldrom (Dunedin) wasn’t a bad effort considering she had had reconstructive surgery on an ankle just 10 months ago.
Starting at noon, one hour before the runners departed, the walking race contestants were waved off by the race’s founder, Wayne Allen.
Leaping out right from the gun was Tahakopa farmer and race favourite Tony Grant, who led the large field into the bush and out on to the beach section of the walk.
“I had a good lead of about four minutes when we left the beach section, but on the long grind through the bush and up the hill I felt I was losing time and then the women caught and passed me. I thoroughly enjoyed the race today and although my time for third place wasn’t a good one I’m still happy,” he said.
Amanda Waldrom of Dunedin, gained success on her first attempt at the walking race section of the challenge.
“It was a tough race and the long gravel sections on the second half made it all that harder, but I really enjoyed it,” she said.
Running race winner and Caversham Harrier and Athletics Club member Nathan Shanks (58min 40sec) said the race was always a good one but this year it was especially tough as the strong cool southwesterly wind was head-on when runners were on the second half of the run.
“It was a good race but very windy at the tops for the last third of the race. Over the last kilometres of the 15.5km-long circuit I started to cramp up a bit from when I got to the bottom of the hill and was worried Jonah Smith would catch me,” said Mr Shanks.
Second-placegetter Jonah Smith, also a member of the Caversham Harrier and Athletics Club, said he was surprised at the pace Shanks set in the race.
“He was at full blast down the beach and up and over the hill section. I tried to stay with him but lost him in the bush. I was stoked to finish second but it was tough run out there today,’’ he said.
Third place in the running race at Papatowai went to Kelvin Meade of Invercargill.
Others of note taking part in the walk-run event were 20-year medal recipients Stephanie Burgess of Puketiro and Marjorie Orr of Mosgiel.
Both coincidently started their first race at the same meeting and both have also been competing consecutively for the past 20 years.
Race founder Mr Allan said it was a great honour to present both of them with their 20-year participation medals.