NZ Science Students Running For Their Lives
AIDS Awareness: Sports science student Geoff Cooper had little enthusiasm for running six months ago but this November plans to lead a team running the length of New Zealand to raise cash and awareness for communities devastated by AIDS.
Geoff (left) will lead about 12 fellow Auckland University and AUT students on Run for their Lives a gruelling relay run from Cape Reinga to Bluff. They leave Cape Reinga on November 18 and expect to reach Bluff on December 5, a distance of 2,100km. They should reach Christchurch on December 1 – World AIDS Day. Runners will need to run about 15km per day to complete their section of the relay.
They will be joined by legendary Zambian long-distance runner and campaigner Cyrus Phiri - renowned for an 800km long run across southern Africa to raise money for AIDS prevention programmes. Cyrus completed the historic run in just five days, averaging 160km per day
Cyrus began running after being forced to witness the slow death of five of his brothers and sisters from the disease.
He currently works for aid agency World Vision in Zambia and has been responsible for AIDS programmes targeting truck drivers and commercial sex workers.
Run for their Lives participants will run in the mornings, and in the afternoons and evenings speak to schools, community groups and running clubs about the scourge of AIDS and lessons learned from extreme long distance running.
Geoff Cooper says runners have concentrated on using the Fartlek system of interval training to build up endurance and he has no doubt the runners have the energy to last the distance.
But he admits the biggest test will be seeing if their bodies can stand the sustained physical hammering.
Geoff says the fact that New Zealand has so far escaped an AIDS epidemic should not lead to a false sense of security since the epicentre of the disease has shifted away from Africa into Asia and is now reaching alarming levels in the Pacific.
“Something has got to be done about it and why not us,” he says
Geoff originally planned to walk the country with his message but after discussions with friend and running enthusiast Andrew Colgan was persuaded running was a more exciting option.
“Andrew is more passionate than anyone I know. I’ve been through some personal struggles and sometimes I’ve felt I don’t know really why I’m doing it. Andrew has come back to me and said, ‘you are doing it because it has to be done’.”
“It’s so easy to sit back and do nothing but hopefully the run will inspire other people to think they could do something like this as well,” Geoff says.
November 18 Kaitaia 19 Kerikeri 20 Whangarei 21 Auckland 22 Auckland 23 Hamilton 24 Taumarunui 25 Wanganui 26 Wellington 27 Picton 28 Kaikoura 29 Christchurch 30 Christchurch
1 Timaru 2 Oamaru 3 Dunedin 4 Gore 5 Bluff