A lack of training didn't stop late entrant Tanja Grunwald from topping the podium at the North Island Firefighter Combat Challenge in Whanganui over the weekend.

The Whanganui firefighter entered the event only two weeks ago after someone pulled out, but she came away having won the over-40 female category in a time that put her second place in the female open as well.

The challenge has been dubbed the "toughest two minutes in sport", and she said the term was fitting.

"It's probably the most exhausting thing I've ever done. It's more a mind game. For someone who hasn't done it, it's hard to imagine."


Whanganui's other podium finish was Carl Murphy, who placed third in the over-40 male category.

The Combat Challenge course, which was set up at Peat Park, replicates actions firefighters have to do on the job.

Activities include running up a specially made six-storey scaffolding tower, dragging hoses, moving railway sleepers, squirting targets with the hoses, and dragging an 80kg dummy, all in full firefighting gear.

Senior firefighter Ian Tanner, who was part of the organising committee, said the weekend was fantastic.

"We were pretty close to having some records broken. It was a very, very good day."

Close to 150 firefighters competed in the event, with the top finishers invited to nationals in Wellington.

"The feedback's been really good. They all enjoyed themselves and Whanganui."

Mr Tanner said the event required a lot of organisation and volunteer work. "Countless hours, countless emails going back and forth and the whole station got behind us."

The event was tied in with this year's 150th jubilee for the Whanganui brigade.