Since 1983 the Speight’s Coast to Coast has led the way in adventure sports. But more than anything it is a people’s race bringing together all kinds of folk of all age and ability from all over the globe.
Robin Judkins is excited. The Speight’s Coast to Coast race director can’t wait for the 29th anniversary event this weekend. Judkins fervour for his 243k cycle, mountain bike and kayak race across the South Island is legendary, but this time is different. For the first time ever he will be a participant in his own event.
The world’s premier multisport race has this year been dubbed, the Year of the Veteran. “The concept,” says Judkins, “is a tribute to people who have been participating in the Speight’s Coast to Coast for several years.”
Of course Robin Judkins himself has been around his event longer than anyone, and in the early days he tested every section of the course. But until now he had never been in a competitor in New Zealand’s best known endurance event.
“In recent years my health hasn’t been great, so I just decided that I could do something for myself as well as showing people that the Speight’s Coast to Coast is achievable by anyone if they want to do some training and give themselves that challenge.”
Fittingly the man who created the Speight’s Coast to Coast had teamed up with the event’s greatest champion, Steve Gurney. They will compete in a team, with Gurney doing the 3k run and 55k road cycle, then Judkins taking on the 33k mountain run across Goat Pass. On the second day Gurney will do the 15k road cycle and 67k white water kayak section and hand to Judkins for the 70k road cycle into Christchurch to finish on Sumner Beach.
Judkins has realistic ambitions. He started training with long walks around the headlands of Sumner where he lives overlooking the finish line of the race he created. “We won’t set any records,” he says. “But it will be a great experience for both of us and for most people that’s what the Speight’s Coast to Coast is all about.”
Judkins and Gurney are just one of many faces in this year’s crowd of almost 700 athletes from 15 countries. Many of these faces are very recognisable.
Television presenter and avid runner Mary Lambie has entered with friend Janna Cowley on team Workoutzone.co.nz. Lambie, who has competed in marathon events, will take on the cycle and mountain run sections for the first time, with her comment being “It seemed like a good idea in June.” Her teammate Cowley’s comment was simply, “Mary made me!”
Another face in the race is well known Marlborough wine maker and beer brewer, Josh Scott, who has several Speight’s Coast to Coast finishes to his credit and this year is a contender for a top 10 placing in the One Day World Championship event.
The Speight’s Coast to Coast reputation as the ultimate sporting challenge is supported by entries from top sports people from other codes. This year’s entries include former rugby star Dallas Seymour and world champion shearer Paul Avery. In a classic clash of the codes 43 year old Seymour and 44 year old Avery will face each other in the Two Day Individual event.
More than anything the Speight’s Coast to Coast is a people’s race with age and ability ranging from 16 year olds like Zac Neale of Hokitika and Bridget Thayer of Wanaka, to 68 year old Shannon farmer Ian August competing in the family teams with his daughter Kylie. Proving that families who play together do stay together, brothers Josh Barber (Nelson) and Kelly Barber (ChCh) are returning to defend their family team title.
Intriguingly the people with the most starts to their name are nine-time winner Steve Gurney, who will be starting his 21st Speight’s Coast to Coast, Rolleston 53 year old Dave Maitland is back for his 20th time. Among women, 2007 champion One Day Fleur Pawsey will be starting for her 11th time, this year defending her women’s team title from last year.
The 2011 Speight’s Coast to Coast starts this Friday at 7:00am on Kumara Beach, south of Greymouth on the South Island’s West Coast, with the Two Day race. The One Day World Championship event starts on Saturday at 6:00am.