The most famous endurance race in New Zealand, the 243km Speight’s Coast to Coast, traverses from Kumara Beach on the West Coast to Sumner on the east. The highest point on the course is the 33km mountain run over Goat Pass not far from Arthur’s Pass township. Competitors don’t stop to admire the native wildlife, but they do contribute to its recovery.
Since 2005, race director Robin Judkins has contributed to the Blue Duck (whio) Recovery Programme in response to concerns over the environmental impact of the race.
Possum hunter Sam McLeod, himself a former endurance athlete, is employed by the programme to maintain a network of more than 200 stoat and rat traps in the Mingha, Deception and Edwards valleys.
Intensive trapping has meant the whio population in the area has increased from just three to 30. Stoat trapping in particular has benefited not just whio but also great spotted kiwi and falcon.
Endurance athletes might not have time to stop, but they can now hear the whistle of whio as they race from west to east.
– Fraser Crichton