Suiting up for a tall challenge

23:59, May 13 2014
clayton andrews
FIGHTING FIT: Cromwell volunteer firefighter Clayton Andrews with NRG Health Fitness manager and personal trainer Cat Keene doing last-minute training before the Sky Tower Challenge in Auckland.

Firefighters are kitting up for last-minute training before racing up 1103 Sky Tower steps this Saturday.

More than 30 firefighters from Central Otago, and 56 from the Waitaki River south, will join hundreds of other firefighters from around New Zealand, Australia and the United States to compete in The Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge, now in its 10th year as a fundraiser for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand.

Cromwell firefighter Clayton Andrews was training up the 45th Parallel steps, near Cromwell, in his full 25 kilogram kit in training for his first Sky Tower challenge.

He had been training since February for the fundraising event, he said.

The firefighters gain sponsorship for their efforts from their communities, friends and families, and last year the 2013 event raised close to $489,000. This year, firefighters hope to raise $1 million.

Alexandra Fire Brigade Deputy Chief Fire Officer Mark Hutton said the biggest Central Otago contingent came from Cromwell with 10 firefighters taking part in the challenge, to just the one firefighter from Waitahuna.

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"Central Otago has really come together and taken to fundraising a significant amount of money for the Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand which doesn't receive any government funding.

"Central Otago firefighters can be really proud of themselves."

The Alexandra brigade, now competing for the eighth time, was the first team from the South Island to compete in the challenge in 2007, he said.

"A lot of people have different training regimes. It's more or less making sure you do a lot of training that involves steps, stairs or hill climbs. It's really a mental challenge as much as a physical challenge. It's really tough on your body. It's really a short endurance race. The fastest guys do it in under nine minutes."

In recent years medal winners from Central Otago have included Simon Smith of the Alexandra brigade who won bronze in the open donned and started (wearing the full kit, including mask); Mark Hutton, of the Alexandra brigade who won bronze in the over-40s donned and started; Mark Hutton, Simon Smith and Leon Burdett, gaining silver for the second fastest team; and Dave Holden, of the Cromwell brigade, who won a gold in the masters.

The Southland Times