The Valley Vets have triumphed in cold conditions to take out the New Zealand’s Oxfam Trailwalker 2007 title, covering 100km in an impressive 13hr,19min in Taupo tonight (Saturday, April 14).
The team of four – Australians Rob Wendel, Didier Martin, Gary Hammett, Robin Broberg - were the first home out of 250 teams who set off early this morning. Veterans of four Melbourne Oxfam Trailwalker events, the Valley Vets put in a truly impressive effort, enduring cold southwesterlies and short bouts of rain, and still managing to run the trail altogether – a distance equivalent to two and half marathons.
“It was a fantastic race,” the runners said straight after. “It’s incredible to win, we’ve done it before and placed well but to win is phenomenal, especially on such a hilly course.”
With a combined age of 207, the veterans gave away their secret to success: “It’s out last Trailwalker, so we had to win!” laughed team leader Rob Wendel.
In second place came another well-practiced Aussie team. Fresh from competing in Sydney and Hong Kong, the mixed team Gators crossed the line in a time of 13hrs, 55 mins.
“It was a great way to see New Zealand,” said Hong Kong-base Jo Eades. “I wish I’d taken my camera, although I’m sure the boys wouldn’t have let me stop to take any pictures!”
Not to be completely outdone by the Aussies, Kiwi firefighters Team TISS finished closely behind. In a time of 14hr, 9min, they were delighted to slash two and a half hours of their 2006 time.
Meanwhile, almost 1000 other participants, together with 1000 support crew members and 250 volunteers, remain dotted along the course. Event organisers expect the bulk of the teams to be streaming in through the early hours of Sunday.
“With only a third of the event complete, this year the level of commitment has already proved to be remarkable,” said Barry Coates, Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director. “The teams who have already crossed the line have put in a phenomenal effort, and there are so many incredible teams to come who have trained and fundraised for many months.”
For some it’s a race, for others it’s a personal challenge to complete the course as well as fundraise for Oxfam’s work to overcome poverty and injustice. At last year’s inaugural Oxfam Trailwalker teams raised an average of $4000 each. This year Oxfam hopes to raise $1 million for its international humanitarian, development and campaigning work.
Oxfam Trailwalker is considered by many as the world’s greatest team challenge. Each team of four must start together, stick together and finish together within 36 hours, tackling the 100km trek which includes Huka Falls, Craters of the Moon, tracts of native bush as well as 1200m of elevation.