Well within the 36-hour cut-off, Team AUT C@S Away took last-line honours in 34 hrs 10mins, having battled bitter autumn elements in the 100km team challenge – Oxfam Trailwalker – held at Taupo this weekend (April 14 – 15). 192 of the original 250 teams that set out in the early hours of Saturday morning, triumphantly crossed challenging terrain – all in a good cause – to help Oxfam overcome poverty and injustice.
Team leader of the AUT team said: "Three of us are lecturers from the School of Nursing at Auckland University of Technology (AUT University). We took on this challenge not only because it is a superb cause, but also with the aim of increasing our health and fitness. With ages ranging from the 40-60's this has been a challenge in itself!"
The southwesterlies blew and the rain fell, but the grisly weather failed to break the resolve of 1000 participants who strode the off-road course day and night past Huka Falls, Craters of the Moon, through native bush and up and down 1200 metres of hilly terrain.
"I'm overwhelmed by the incredible level of support given to Oxfam this weekend – not only by the participants, but from hundreds of supporters and volunteers from around the country – and from the people of Taupo, most especially the 70 landowners who allow the event to cross over their land,'' says Oxfam's Executive Director Barry Coates.
The start gun sounded at 6am and again at 8am yesterday (Saturday April 14), and winning team, the Valley Vets of Melbourne streaked ahead, running the equivalent of two and half marathons in 13 hrs,19 mins but were unable to match last year's winning time of 11hrs 48mins.
The first mixed team across the line, Team Gators, in 13hrs 40mins came in second overall and comfortably beat the mixed record for last year of 14hr 21min.
The winning women's team, Girl's Night Out, were charging, coming in just after midnight in a time of 16hrs, 7 mins, slashing last year's time of 19.28.
Once the blisters have dried up, teams still face the challenge of fundraising as much as they can up until June 15 to help some of the world's poorest people.
Last year, teams on average raised more than $4000 each. This year, Oxfam New Zealand hopes to raise at least $1 million in total – and indications are that this will be achievable with the top fundraising team, Feet of Endurance having raised more than $18,000 so far.
Oxfam Trailwalker originally began as a military training exercise for the Nepali Ghurkhas 25 years ago and is now Oxfam's top fundraising challenge in Australia, Britain, Hong Kong, Japan and New Zealand.
The event is in its second year in New Zealand. Internationally, Trailwalker has so far raised more than $50 million for Oxfam's humanitarian, development and campaigning work.