Speight’s Coast To Coast Beating Recession

Postby Melissa_Theuriau on Mon 19/Jan/09 8:48am

As the world around us suffers through the worst economic recession of the last 20 years, endurance junkies from all ends of New Zealand and the world are ignoring their bank balance and heading south for New Zealand’s challenge of choice – the annual Speight’s Coast to Coast.

Six months ago, when Speight’s Coast to Coast race director, Robin Judkins, opened entries for 2009’s 27th running of his world famous race across New Zealand’s South Island, he was nervous. A global economic recession was on the horizon and adventure sport is one of the most expensive pastimes around.

“I was sitting there wondering whether the economic downturn would translate into a downtown in the Speight’s Coast to Coast,” says Judkins… “But apparently people today value their health and fitness and lifestyle as much as their finances.”

As the world continues to trumpet its financial woes, Robin Judkins is over the moon with entries for the 2009 Speight’s Coast to Coast, scheduled this year for February 13 and 14.

“As of January 13 we have 766 entries for this year’s Speight’s Coast to Coast,” says Judkins. “This is only 3.7 percent down on 2008, which given the current economic climate is bloody extraordinary.”

“Last year we had 795 competitors in the event. Right now we are still receiving entries every day, so there is every chance we may have much the same entry as last year despite all the doom and gloom.”

“Even I’m surprised by this great entry,” says Judkins, who has organised the 243k cycle, mountain run and white water kayaking race across the South Island since 1983.

In the 27 years of the Speight’s Coast to Coast Judkins and his event have weathered three economic downturns.

“The first was after the 1987 stock market crash,” he says. “After that we had a 10 percent downturn in entries. And then in the late 1990s the Asian economic meltdown also saw around 10 percent less entries. But this current recession, which is hitting New Zealanders much more personally, seems to be having very little effect on the event.”

Judkins thinks this speaks volumes about the place of both health and fitness and the Speight’s Coast to Coast in New Zealand society.

“I think fitness and recreation are more ingrained in New Zealand society than ever before. Yes, there’s an economic recession, but people are putting more priority on their fitness and lifestyle goals and the Speight’s Coast to Coast is an event that many New Zealander’s have on their lifestyle wish list.”

“It’s interesting, because despite the economic recession there are more first timers than ever before entered for this year’s Speight’s Coast to Coast. For several years the ratio of newcomers and old hands has always been about 52 percent new comers. But this year new comers currently make up an amazing 64 percent of entries.”

The recession doesn’t appear to have affected international entries either. “Right now,” says Judkins, “we have 102 overseas entries from 14 countries, which is exactly the same as last year.”

Domestically, Cantabrians once again dominate entries, and Judkins has been very pleased with increased participation from areas such as Marlborough, Nelson, Westland and Southland regions. But after Canterbury, Aucklanders make up the second biggest group, which Judkins says is another triumph over the doom and gloom of the recession.

The biggest triumph for 2009’s 27th Speight’s Coast to Coast, however, is the success of Judkin’s self-proclaimed “Year of the Woman”.

“Last year we had our biggest ever female entry and our closest ever race for the women’s world championship,” he explains, “so this year we thought we should celebrate that by making 2009 “The Year of the Woman. Since New Year we’ve had this confirmed simultaneously by the entry of defending champion Emily Miazga and the total number of female entries exceeding 25 percent for the first time ever.”

Almost 200 women are among the 766 entries to date. But Judkins admits to some trepidation six months ago when the economic crisis hit at the same time as he launched entries.

“We always launch entries in June and for a while entries were slow. But as soon as Barack Obama won the US presidential election entries started flowing in. I think even New Zealanders saw that as a sign that the world might find stability sooner rather than later.”

But Robin Judkins and the Speight’s Coast to Coast are old hands at dealing with financial crisis. When he first launched the event he lost money, and almost his house, for three years in a row. Then just as the concept of an endurance race across the South Island was cementing itself into the country’s identity, the stock market crashed and he had to weather another couple of leans years. Today, however, the Speight’s Coast to Coast remains New Zealand’s challenge of choice – a challenge that has transcended sport to become a lifestyle choice.
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Re: Speight’s Coast To Coast Beating Recession

Postby gordster on Tue 20/Jan/09 5:40pm

more like most people don't understand what an economic recession is and haven't realised NZ is sitting on the edge of a ledge about to plunge headlong into it following Iceland.

There are always going to be punters willing to sign up to this event. Seems to be more people from the North Island these days than in Canterbury.
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