Hundreds tackle challenge

Hundreds crossed the Tahakopa estuary road-bridge before plunging into Catlins coastal bush...
Hundreds crossed the Tahakopa estuary road-bridge before plunging into Catlins coastal bush during the Papatowai Challenge on Saturday. PHOTO: NICK BROOK
More than 380 runners and walkers took part in the 28th Papatowai Challenge on Saturday.

Founder and patron Wayne Allen said still, overcast skies over light, cooling rain were perfect running conditions.

"It’s a challenge because it’s up and down over country roads, through bush and along the beach," he said.

The race was first run in 1997 after Mr Allen’s Dunedin running club asked him to develop their favourite, 15.5km, out-of-town cross-country circuit into an annual public event.

"A half-marathon sounds a bit serious to some, but 15km is quite manageable for anyone who trains a bit, inclusive for all ages to walk and just right for a serious athlete looking for a fast time."

"The record is 51 minutes, 31 seconds, set by Dougal Thorburn in 2012, but we have athletes who’ve met the challenge every time for years and decades, and we’re here with plenty of prizes to give accolades to whoever comes in last as much as first."

This year’s first placers were George Hamilton in 56min 42sec and Margie Campbell in 1hr 5min 29sec.

Participants included "60+ Legends" rivals Ian McDonald and Phil Nappet, Marjorie Orr, a financial benefactor of 27 years, blind walker Leanne Melvin collecting her 10th-year medal and Sportsmanship Shield winner Gavin White.

"It’s the generosity of local people like Gavin and the loyalty of the athletes who return year after year who make it all possible, and since Sport Clutha took over organisation in 2022 it’s only got stronger."

An accompanying 5km "Papatowai Canter" was popular with families and children.

Sport Clutha regional sports co-ordinator Craig Gordon said it had been a pleasure to manage the day.

"It’s great to see numbers growing and we’re always grateful to everybody who supports the challenge including the emergency services on stand-by and people from as far away as Invercargill and Germany here to have a go."