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Jude Patterson (39), of Lawrence, had completed the 1.9km swim and 90km bike ride of the Lake Wanaka Half event before setting out for the 21km run.
She took off on foot along Wanaka's lakefront before following the course as it turned left near the marina.
‘‘And a man had collapsed,'' Mrs Patterson told the Otago Daily Times last night.
‘‘There were two tourists leaning over him and trying to perform CPR on him.''
Despite their best efforts, Mrs Patterson could see the tourists were not pushing the collapsed man's chest hard enough. With the muscles of her upper body exhausted from the swim and cycle, she took over.
‘‘Because I've been trained in CPR, I know you've got to push quite hard. And the lady that was doing it was too gentle.‘‘So I saw what was happening and just got straight into it.''
The exertion needed to perform CPR was taxing and her body was aching and exhausted, she said. But stopping wasn't an option.
‘‘It was adrenaline, to be fair. The sweat was pouring off me. It was hard work and I was pretty much putting all my effort into it. It was very, very hard work.''
With one of the tourists, Mrs Patterson took turns at giving chest compressions while another bystander called an ambulance.
‘‘I was not going to stop. It was adrenaline and I just knew I was not going to stop until he got up off the ground and smacked me in the face.
‘‘I was absolutely emotionally and physically drained but a man's life was at stake. So I wasn't going to just run off.''
Another runner, a doctor, arrived and helped with the CPR before an ambulance reached the scene and a defibrillator was used to shock the man.
His heart had not restarted in the 30 minutes Mrs Patterson had been with him, but, with the ambulance crew in control, Mrs Patterson decided to carry on with her race.
She spent the next 20km staring down her exhaustion, both emotional and physical.
‘‘It was very hard, I was battling. I was going to throw it in because that sort of stuff emotionally drains you so my head wasn't in the race.
‘‘But I just slapped myself around a bit and said, ‘Jude, don't throw it in'.''
When Mrs Patterson finished, she headed straight to a first aid tent to ask after the man. She was told ambulance staff found a faint pulse and the man was transferred by helicopter to Dunedin Hospital, where he was in the Intensive Care Unit.
Mrs Patterson said she was reluctant to talk about the event but hoped it could encourage people to undergo a first aid course.
It also gave her the chance to express the ‘‘life-changing'' choice she made when she joined the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Brigade five years ago.