Team takes on Kokoda Challenge in honour of veterans
A GRUELLING Gold Coast event honours the spirit of Australia's second world war Diggers and the sacrifices they made back in 1942 on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea while fighting the Japanese.
The Kokoda Challenge Gold Coast, hailed as the toughest team endurance event in Australia, involves teams of four tackling 96km - the distance of the Kokoda Track - through the Gold Coast hinterland within a time limit of 39 hours - in honour of the 39th Militia, who were the first Australian response unit at Kokoda.
Mermaid Waters entrant Peter Wintour includes his wife, sister and daughter in his team, named the Logan and Beaudesert Bushwalkers after their bushwalking club.
"Last year I remember seeing a team with one walking backwards, due to an injury, two supporting her and the fourth member guiding them to the finish line," Peter said.
"This to me is the spirit of our Kokoda Diggers and what this challenge strives for - endurance, courage, sacrifice and mateship.
"This is one of many memories that highlights the atmosphere that surrounds and motivates us during this event. This is what keeps us coming back each year."
This is the family's third year of participation, and it's never a walk in the park.
"The 96km hilly course around the Gold Coast Hinterland was designed to mimic the horrendous terrain found on the PNG Kokoda Track," Peter said.
"It has steep hills, slippery descents and many ridges, as well as a dozen creeks and causeways to negotiate.
"It is called the toughest team endurance event in Australia and, having competed in it, we can testify to its diabolic nature.
"To continuously trek all 96km takes a very determined mind and physical endurance where blisters, joint and muscle fatigue or even injury can cause issues."
Peter's team members have been transformed from "beach walkers to endurance hikers".
"The main reason for entering this challenge is fitness for us.
"As we grow older, it is important to exercise and this training provided that in bucketfuls.
"I lost about 10 kilos, my wife lost about six kilos and we gained a feeling of new strength, both physical and mental."
Teams are each required to raise $1600, with funds going towards the Kokoda Youth Foundation .
Several competitors aged in their 70s have completed the challenge.
The Kokoda Challenge Gold Coast takes place this year on July 16 and 17.
The 96km course starts at Firth Park in Mudgeeraba, follows selected fire trails and paths through the Gold Coast Hinterland and includes Austinville, Springbrook, Numinbah Valley, Beechmont and Clagiraba to the finish line at the Nerang Velodrome.