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“The Year of the Family”

“The Year of the Family”

For almost three decades the Speight’s Coast to Coast has led the way in adventure sports. This year the world’s longest running multisport event celebrates its 28th edition by celebrating the multisport family.

Robin Judkins is excited. The Speight’s Coast to Coast race director can’t wait for 2010’s 243k cycle, mountain run and kayak race across the South Island.

Scheduled for February 12 and 13, the race that created multisport continues to be the sport’s most significant cultural gathering. In recent years Judkins has noted ever-increasing family connections within his great race and as a result has dubbed the 28th anniversary event the “Year of the Family”.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while,” he explains. “Multisport is a small sport that touches a lot of people worldwide, so in some ways the sport itself is like a big family. At the Speight’s Coast to Coast we have participants from all over New Zealand and the world who come back year after year. They use the event as their own annual reunion with friends and family.”

Auckland’s Mike Baker will certainly be looking forward to his first Speight’s Coast to Coast. His son’s Henry and William are returning home from Australia and the United Kingdom to participate with him.

Wellington’s Doug Stevens is certainly going to enjoy something of a family reunion, with three generations involved. The 70 year is the eldest entrant thus far and his wife Carolyn is also entered for the One Day event. Daughter Jasmin is also racing, while for support crew they are sharing son Paul, daughter Debbie and granddaughter Elyse.

Indeed, the impact of families within is not limited only to entrants. “The Speight’s Coast to Coast is a big undertaking that requires every entrant to have a sizeable support crew,” says Judkins. “Many of these support crews are made up of family members. In some cases one entrant could have up to a dozen family members supporting them as they race across the country!”

Mother and daughter, Aroha Hyland and Alison Russell from Auckland and New Plymouth are coming together in a team, with a husband, in-laws, uncle and sister all along in support.

Twins Alastair and Kilmeny Stephens from Christchurch and Nelson are also teaming up for this year’s event, with parents, a sister and their son and his family all on the support crew.

“Alastair has actually been an official at the Speight’s Coast to Coast for the past five years, “ says Judkins, “so it’s great to that it has inspired him to compete, but also that he wants to share the experience with his family.”

Just as impressive is the entourage that will accompany American Jim Woods’. When Wood told his family he was going to the other side of the world to race across New Zealand his wife, sister and 74 year old father all insisted on coming to support him.

But who can top the story of German doctor Andre Rudolph, who was born only a few weeks after the very first Speight’s Coast to Coast in 1983. He first experienced the event as a spectator in 1999 when he was an exchange student at Shirley Boys’ High School, and more than a decade later is returning to participate with his schoolboy host family acting as support crew.

Even at the top level, families have played a part in success. In 1994, when Christchurch doctor Keith Murray set a course record of 10hrs 34min 37secs that still stands today he was support crewed by wife Andrea. In 1997 Keith returned the favour and support crewed for Andrea when she set a women’s course record of 12hrs 09min 26secs that also still stands.

“Except for the course and me organising the event, families are probably the biggest constant from every Speight’s Coast to Coast,” explains Judkins of his motivation for the Year of the Family.

“Even in the very first race in 1983, which only had 77 finishers, there were strong family connections. There was the brother and sister duo of John and Stella Sweney, both racing as individuals, and brothers Chris and Peter Cobeldick raced in a team.”

Judkins personal favourites, however, are husband and wife duo, Emma and Guy de Lacey.

“They both raced as individuals in 1983, so I don’t know what the hell they did for support crew,” laughs Judkins. But they are both racing again in 2010 and their son Jacob is also racing with them. How great is that!”

It is this angle that Judkins get the biggest kick out of: “The Speight’s Coast to Coast has been around for more than a quarter of a century, almost three decades, and what we’re seeing more and more is a new generation of some of the same names.”

“The kids of participants are becoming participants. I get a lot of satisfaction out of that. In some small way the Speight’s Coast to Coast has helped shape some positive habits and relationships within families. I wonder if that isn’t the event’s biggest legacy.”


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