New Zealand race pain proves Pettigrew’s gain

TOBY Pettigrew was hurting.

Hours upon hours of running, riding and paddling quite literally from one side of New Zealand to the other had left him spent.

But as he closed in on the finish of the Coast to Coast adventure race at Christchurch, the battles the earthquake-stricken city had experienced dominated his mind.

Pettigrew was in a world of pain. But that was nothing compared to what residents of the city had gone through.

“I suppose one of the most confronting things is for all the pain you’re in, you’re riding through parts of Sumner Beach on the coastal areas of Christchurch and there are sheer parts of the cliff that have fallen down,” he said.

“There are houses trashed, places held up by shipping containers.

“The road into Sumner Beach was up and down, up and down, all from the earthquake. Christchurch itself is trashed compared to when I was there two years ago.

“That’s quite humbling. You’re in a lot of hurt at the end of 16 hours of racing and you think these poor bastards have done it harder.”

Pettigrew, a 39-year-old Warrnambool physiotherapist, yesterday recounted how he conquered 243 kilometres of New Zealand’s relentless terrain in a single day.

The Coast to Coast adventure race promotes itself as “the world’s premier multi-sport event” and there are few disagreements from those who compete.

About 120 competitors lined up at Kumara Beach, near Greymouth on the west coast of New Zealand, at 6am on Saturday.

They started with a 3km run and 55km ride before tackling a 33km mountain run, rising 800 metres to Goat Pass. A 15km ride followed, which led to the start of a 67km paddle down the Waimakariri River.

A third ride, this time 70km, took competitors to the finish line at Sumner Beach on Christchurch’s outskirts, where residents flocked to support those who made it.

Pettigrew finished in 16 hours and 22 minutes — about an hour slower than he anticipated.

He highlighted the mountain run as the toughest part 

 “You’re crossing river beds multiple times, you’re boulder hopping,” he said.

“It’s not a Sunday run on the promenade.”

“One of the theories behind it is if you’re going to do it and punish yourself you might as well do it somewhere spectacular,” Pettigrew said.

“When you’re hurting at the top of Goat Pass you look back over your shoulder and you’ve got snow on the top of the peaks.

“You’ve got this river running down the mountain and you’ve just run up all these boulders and tree roots.

“It’s mind blowing. It takes your mind off the pain.

“If you compare this to doing an Ironman triathlon, the physicality is pretty similar but the scenery is spectacular, it takes your mind elsewhere at times.”

Pettigrew, who began training for the event six months ago, said there was a major sense of achievement when he crossed the finish line.

“You can say you’ve physically propelled yourself from one side of a country to the other.”

He said he was unsure if he would compete again in 12 months’ time but was adamant he would improve at his second attempt.

afawkes@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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