Women of GODZone, I Salute You

I have struggled racing in a team with males in the past. I must highlight that I have never done a GODZone so this applies to the likes of Coast to Coast, Red Bull Defiance and a smattering of rogaines. I’ve been fraught with worry about slowing the boys down or being a burden. And so far this has been entirely for no reason because they have never complained (or have been too polite to complain!) and occasionally it has in fact been me that is the strongest link. Volunteering on the media crew for GODZone gave me a front row seat to the action, and something that struck me quite early on in the race was the admirable aura of strength that seemed to emanate from many of the female competitors.

We only need to look to these ladies - Emily Forne, Georgia Whitla, Corrine O’Donnell, Jodie Fa’avae, Jo Williams, Sarah Fairmaid, Chelsey Magness, Jennifer Walker, Anna Barrett, Rachel Baker, Jo Turnbull, and Bex Law (the female members of the top 12 Pure teams) - to see that you don’t have to be an untamed woman of the wilderpeople to be up there kicking it with the strongest men. Have a browse of the GODZone event photos, that’s where we find our great female role models. You can be tough as nails, show true grit, and endure days of physical and mental suffering with grace, pure femininity, and often with a mile-wide grin and silly joke at the ready. Now that’s beauty!

An impressive feat is that females generally seem to fare better than their male counterparts over the course of the race. GODZone event director Warren Bates said, “It was uncanny that in nearly all teams, the women tended to look pretty good or the least beaten up by the finish line.” Warren suggests this may be thanks to more proactive attention to personal well being, conservation of effort and energy earlier in the race, or staunch mental approach. Whatever the reason, it was incredibly inspiring for us on the sideline watching these ladies cross the finish line.

There were a couple of teams who really caught my attention - the all-female foursomes of NZHL Women Beyond Cancer and the Jack Wolfskin Girls. NZHL Women Beyond Cancer entered GODzone with the goal “to inspire and motivate other women cancer survivors to get back out there, to dream a little and give themselves goals and challenges beyond fighting cancer”. And what an arena they chose for their new challenge! They showed impressive teamwork and resilience on course, and became a media sensation following the Cinderella’s Shoes story (which you can read here). Shanel found herself shoeless before the epic Stage 3 trek, but was saved by the kind actions of a generous photographer who lent her his own shoes. In an event that tests competitors to their limits, they showed that their light still well and truly shines.

The Jack Wolfskin Girls were unmistakable in their matching flamingo-pink jackets and a force to be reckoned with given their arsenal of expedition-length adventure race experience in the team. I first spotted them on course at CP16 where they were finishing their stopover with a synchronised team tooth brushing session. They missed the cut off at TA4 at West Arm, Lake Manapouri by a heartbreaking few hours and were forced onto the short course. After conquering the colossal climb over Percy Pass this was hugely disappointing for them, but they soldiered on with dignity and even managed a few smiles through their weary spirits.

The boys can crush on Richie McCaw, the latest big deal to arrive on the adventure racing scene. But I’ll still be over here shouting the praises of, and girl-crushing on, all the ladies who tackled GODZone Chapter 7.