First time's a charm they say, or at least that was the case for Debbie Donald who was the first female to slide over the muddy finish line at the weekend.

The Marlborough woman was one of many who travelled to Rotorua to participate in the Tough Guy and Gal Challenge, in its 17th year.

It was the last event of its kind for 2019 and therefore the winners from races around the country battled it out to compete in the Moa New Zealand Tough Guy and Gal Champs.

Although her first time on the course, Donald was the first woman in the champs race to come home by a long mile.


"I ran the 6km in Palmy [Palmerston North] earlier this year and came first so I thought why not come up here and see how I go.

"It was pretty exhilarating looking around as I was getting near the end of the course and realising there was no other woman around."

Her support crew of three children, a husband and her natural ability were what led to her success she said.

The challenge was organised by Event Promotions and featured a junior event on Wednesday and Thursday, secondary school event on Friday and culminated in the adult race on Saturday which 1500 people entered.

Angus McKelvie was the first male to come home after a slippery run - his third time winning the New Zealand Champs section.

Frenchman Stephane Voucher from Tauranga started the run as a giraffe but after plunging into the waist-high muddy water and slipping through trails of dirt, his spots were hard to find.

A giraffe ear headband had made it through the carnage of the course, although he came close to losing it at one point.

"It was extremely fun, but hilly. We did the race as a work thing and all dressed up as different animals."


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A pair of yellow tutus were waiting eagerly at the finish line for their other yellow friends.

Deb Feilding and Shvonn Cunningham were part of a group of 16 that took part, and covered head to toe in yellow garments - at least they were before the race.

"We all take part in a park run so we thought why not [get involved]," Feilding said.

"But this was way harder and way more dirtier."

Although it was her first time plunging into freezing mud, Feilding said she would "absolutely" take part again.

"It is a great atmosphere. People are pulling you up if you slip and you all reach that finish line together."

The company's marketing manager Stephanie Neilsen said the event was much the same as last year but people kept coming through every year.

"Rotorua is the home of this event and we do get a lot of the same competitors coming and bringing along their friends."

The challenge had 6km and 12km options which included swamp crossings, tunnels and climbing under and over various obstacles.

Tough Guy and Gal Challenges are held in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Hawke's Bay, and Palmerston North.