No stopping Challenge Wanaka athlete and benefactor Garth Barfoot


No stopping Challenge Wanaka athlete and benefactor Garth Barfoot

There seems to be no stopping Challenge Wanaka athlete and benefactor Garth Barfoot who has his sights set on the full long distance triathlon event in Cairns this Sunday after a less than ideal build up.

The veteran of a multitude of triathlons and three hip reconstructions used a hospital wheelchair late last year as a trainer after another crash on his bike resulted in his third broken hip.

His efforts in a wheelchair were at first to see seeing how quickly he could get from his room to the dining room, then he explored the various levels of the village and finally found how long his arm muscles would hold out doing laps from one end of the carpark floor to the other. By the time he was discharged he was able to go for a full hour averaging five kilometres per hour, which according to the sign at the entrance was the speed limit anyway, for cars!

Fast forward a number of months and moving from notching up the swimming miles at first followed by getting back on the bike then finally some running he competed in the TRINZ Sprint Champs at Kinloch in February, finishing ahead of three others finishers and claiming a gold medal, what more could a recovering 81 year old not long off his crouches ask for!

A bit of a setback happened when he missed the run cut off in Taupo’s 70.3 event but the fact that Garth had made both the swim and bike cutoffs and completed the course stirred the ashes of his long distance dreams, undisturbed since his first hip accident four years ago. It was at that moment he was mentally entered in this weekend’s full distance event in Cairns.

Running became his focus with his first long workout being the Huntly Half. “It never occurred to me that, with 31 years of racing experience, I still had something to learn,” he says. “It is not your running speed that counts, it is your speed on the run.”

“I started at Huntly as a runner, changed into a shuffling runner around half way mark before changing into a walker with 7 km to go. It was hard keeping up with them but I put the drafting skills I had learnt from cycling into good use.” Garth’s time 3hours 18minutes.

During April Garth put in as many long walks as he could, time consuming, so he was glad he had made the decision to retire last year.  “A side benefit was the increase in the time I could run properly, by the end of the month I was able to do a half marathon (Whenuapai) running the whole way.” His time was three flat, things were getting better.

His final pre Cairns test, the Rotorua marathon, seemed to drag a little but on the day it all came together – a lot of running, a lot of walking but Garth was using the drafting walking technique he had learnt at Huntly. “My time was 6 hours 16 minutes, sufficient for me to get on the podium at the prize giving, an ambition I have held since I first did Rotorua in 1990. It may have been bronze but I was ahead of three others in my age group and 115 runners overall. What a contrast to Kinloch.”

Garth’s next stop, this weekend the full distance event in Cairns – all the team at Challenge Wanaka wish him all the best.