Hundreds of keen athletes braved the heat in South Otago on Saturday.

Participants from locals to Dunedin and further prepared themselves for a hot walk or run at the 27th annual Papatowai Challenge hosted by Sport Clutha.

Founder of the event Wayne Allen, who established the challenge in 1997, said he had been looking forward to this years’ event after Covid-19 postponed last years’ challenge.

‘‘We’ve had one year without it but that definitely has not stopped the popularity.

‘‘We’ve got great numbers this year — over 300 participants which puts us over the line to have had 7500 participants over the entire time the Papatowai Challenge has been established.

‘‘I find that a magical number.’’

He received the title of patron of the event and was ‘‘humbled’’ by the gesture.

‘‘I’m very proud of the title and the event itself, and I’m proud it’s kept so popular over the years.

‘‘I’m thankful to Craig Gordon for taking on the event in 2019. It gives me time to slow down, although I’m still helping out in the background.’’

Participants had to lather on sunscreen before they started off on the road beside Mr Allen’s home and made their way around the beaches, gravel roads, bush tracks and low tide of Papatowai.

Mr Allen was ‘‘stoked’’ with the weather and the turnout.

‘‘It puts a big smile on my face to know people have come for many years.

‘‘We give out participation medals for people who have done 5, 10, 15 and now 20 years of the challenge.

‘‘I’m quite happy this year to be assisting in handing out 20 year medals to some successful [and] dedicated folk.

‘‘I’ve said this every year — it’s a challenge where friends meet friends. It started out that way and it will always be that way.

‘‘All ages, shapes and sizes can and have attended and it’s just a positive event for all.’’

Sport Clutha regional sports co-ordinator Craig Gordon said he was pleased with the turnout and it was ‘‘so nice’’ to see everyone at the challenge again.

Results will be available soon for placements and winners of each category in the challenge.