The Kokoda Challenge is not your average event.
It is designed to break down barriers, push you to your limit, even break you.
It is designed to bring you the closest you can be to feeling exactly what our diggers felt in Kokoda.
Every year, the 96km track through the Gold Coast does just that to competitors, so why should it's 15th year be any different?
877 people gathered at Mudgeeraba Bowls Club to tackle 96km of unforgiving hinterland track. The start line has a unique feeling, it is still yet you can hear a gentle hum of competitors voices excited yet nervous at what lies ahead.
The official formalities take place with VIP guests the Hon. Ros Bates MP and Councillor Glenn Tozer, Alan Jamieson, the choir The Blenders, a bagpiper David Greenhalgh, Founder Doug Henderson OAM, the Bugler Adam Turner and finally the Men with Rifles, taking their shot to signify start.
As the waves take off, Somerset Drive is alive with colour, ambition and determination.
These competitors are calculating their pace, counting down checkpoints and are feeling the adrenaline that has kickstarted through their veins.
This is going to be a Challenge. The toughest team endurance challenge they will ever experience. Some are crazy enough to have done this more than 10 times - but that's the Challenge for you..it captures you beyond your own belief.
The halfway mark is Numinbah Hall, 48 kms to the finish line.
Here is where the second part of The Challenge commences. There are two categories taking on the 48km stretch - School Cup and Open teams, a total of 1176 competitors.Some teams hoping that an 11am and 1pm start won't see them walking through the night, some teams knowing it is totally inevitable.
At 12.30pm the first teams from the 96km Challenge come through, for a quick snack, restrap and even a change of shoes. Don't let these numbers fool you - these guys are elite athletes, competing for time and competing against the track. They are so light on their feet that there is barely a footprint left behind.
By 1.10pm Numinbah Hall is quiet, it's as though a start line was never there, the same hum that took off down the streets of Mudgeeraba are headed for the Numinbah Enviro Centre like a swarm of bees.
This event is not only unique for it's competitors, emotions and Challenge, it is also unique in the way Volunteers come together every year like a family - they form an integral part of the Kokoda Challenge Community. Passionate, proud and encouraging, there are over 100 people in this community and without them, this event would just not be.
Each Checkpoint you walk into, you are greeted by their words of encouragement, their warm smiles and sometimes a treat or two. No two Checkpoints are the same on event day, no two Checkpoints are the same each year - that is part of the fun, finding new ways to encourage and pick up competitors as they pass through.
Our amazing family of volunteers will also greet you at event pack collection, help set up and pack down the start and finish lines, they are the ones marking the tracks and the ones following the last competitor on the track pulling down signage as you go.
Over the course of 39 hours, there were 343 competitors that didn't make the finish line. Injuries, tiredness, illness and exhaustion are the main causes of withdrawal. The Challenge is real, it is raw and it can and will defeat you. These competitors will be back, some of them just don't know it yet.
As the day heads into dusk, the finish line welcomes the first teams of the 96km and 48 km distances. Congratulations to our first finishers, as follows:
96km OPEN: WILDEARTH ONE WILDHAMMER
96km SCHOOL CUP: Unity College 1
48km OPEN: Adsy Athletes
48km SCHOOL CUP: SALC2
Let's not lose focus of the teams that did it really difficult, which included our Brisbane KCYP kids who walked for over 39 hours.
An honourable mention to the Gold Coast KCYP branch, who started with 12 and finished with 12, a rare feat.
A constant reminder lies within each team including our KCYP kids, it takes Courage to do the event, it is all about your Endurance, Mateship will carry you to the finish line where you will learn the true meaning of Sacrifice.
The Kokoda Youth Foundation would like to extend a special thank you to our event sponsors, WildEarth, Multiplex and Cogent Scaffolding (great work on the bridge guys!), the Springwater Man, City of Gold Coast and Accor, and to the ongoing support from Kennards Hire, SOK Images, Homestyle Bake, Simon George Sons and M & J Chickens.
Want to check out the photos from the Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge, visit https://www.sokimages.com.au/kokoda-challenge-2019-photos
If this sounds like an event you want to get involved in, registrations open in November for the Kokoda Challenge 2020 - Save the date 18 - 19 July. If you can't wait, we are heading to our 10th Kokoda Challenge in Melbourne on 5/6 October. This event includes 15, 30 and 48km - register here today.
Thank you to everyone who came to experience the weekend, from Support Crews to families. We hope to see you next year, and if you are not competing, have you thought about volunteering?!