Hastings firefighter Nathan Ferguson is tackling his first distance competition this weekend, as he steps out in the inaugural Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay International Marathon.

He's been in training for just three weeks.

"I was a late sign-up," he admitted. "But I like a challenge and it's for a good cause."

Mr Ferguson is part of "Team Rescue Heli", running the New Zealand Sotheby's RE half marathon course to raise funds for Hawke's Bay's Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter.


As well as being a fulltime firefighter based at the Hastings station, Mr Ferguson is a volunteer crew member for the rescue helicopter, so knows full well the importance of keeping the chopper flying.

"Each year the rescue helicopter crew flies more than 300 missions and it costs $2.2 million each year to operate. We rely on the generosity of people and businesses in Hawke's Bay to remain operational."

Mr Ferguson said an agreement between the fire service and the helicopter trust allows himself and two other firefighters to provide manpower as volunteer crew members "on duty and on our days off ... it's a brilliant relationship".

He is hoping that the fitness he maintains for his job, as well as extra fitness training he undergoes as part of the helicopter crew, will carry him over the finish line of the half marathon, despite his late sign-up and short preparation time.

"We do a 6km training run up Te Mata Peak as part of the helicopter crew training. I managed the last one okay."

Mr Ferguson's only prior distance run was "a walk run really" as he took part in a fundraiser for child cancer, running with a group of firefighters from the Hastings Fire Station to the Napier Fire Station, wearing full firefighting gear and breathing equipment.

The gear will be a bit lighter this weekend. Mr Ferguson and the other Team Rescue Heli members will be running in bright red singlets.

"Cheer us on when you see us, we will appreciate the encouragement," he said.

- To support Team Rescue Heli, visit givealittle.co.nz