Roo legends Challenge bound with sporting Pulse Team

  • November 23, 2012
  • By Ian Chesterman

 

Archer and his former teammate Leigh Colbert have entered the enthusiast pairs event as part of the Sporting Pulse Team in this year’s Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge, a 350-kilometre run, cycle and paddle adventure race on Australia’s Apple Isle from November 28 to December 2.
 
The highly successful charity event is the brainchild of Australian Formula 1 driver Mark Webber, whose philanthropic foundation has raised more than $1 million for charities.
 
Throughout Archer’s glittering 16 years with the Kangaroos, he endured many games with injuries that would have kept lesser athletes on the sidelines. Continually putting his body on the line with displays of unbridled courage and team spirit, Archer was named a “Shinboner of the Century” after he retired, an accolade that means he is one of North’s all-time greats.
 
He has withstood punishing pre-seasons and other enormous physical demands placed on him throughout his playing career, but Archer, who is fronting up for his third Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge, openly admits that the event “kills it” when it is compared with AFL training.
 
“Last year’s Challenge in particular was grueling,” Archer recalled.
 
“AFL training was more explosive whereas adventure racing is long and gruelling and probably hurts more mentally than AFL training.
 
“It is considerably harder than AFL. It’s probably the hardest thing I have ever done.”
 
Being a five day event, which includes mountain biking, running, kayaking and a range of other activities each day, it’s not hard to see why Archer, who still maintains a strong level of fitness, is apprehensive about making his way to the start line once again.
 
There are two reasons why he is again competing in the Apple Isle event.
 
“One, when you get a bit older you’ve got to have a bit of a goal to keep your fitness up and, two, I’m a massive fan of Mark Webber,” Archer said. 
 
“He is just a quality person and if I can help out in any way, I will.”
 
And while he does not freely talk about it, Archer is highly generous with his time when it comes to supporting charities that make a difference in the community.
 
Although the competitive juices still flow, Archer is not expecting to finish among the top place getters, instead being more focused on “first I just want to finish.”
 
“We will be basically competing against ourselves. We are not at Mark Webber’s level. He’s a freak, unbelievable. He is the fittest guy I have ever met.”
 
“I do a lot of work with our team sponsor, SportingPulse, who are a massive supporter of grass roots sport in Australia.   It is fantastic that they have entered the two teams into this years challenge and asked Colby and I to compete alongside two of their long term employees who are doing their first adventure race”
 
Colbert, who played alongside Archer for 104 games during his six years with North following 105 games with Geelong, is looking forward to competing with his close mate and business partner, but joked about the prospect of relying on Archer’s map reading skills for the orienteering aspects of the event.
 
“The thing that we are likely to struggle with the most is navigation,” Colbert said with a laugh.
 
“Glenn is on navigation duties this year. Last year he went off course one whole hour on a mountain bike, which means one hour off course and one hour back – ugly.
 
“The last time I did this event, I did the first two days with a local Launceston guy who knew the area like the back of his hand.
 
“I think we were about fourth or fifth after the first two days and then Glenn arrived, and all hell broke loose. We couldn’t navigate, we didn’t know where we were and we got lost.
 
“It was very funny out on the track. Let me tell you that when Glenn loses his cool, you’ve got to run, and it is usually my fault. There is no one else to blame in the bush.
 
“After six or seven hours of running and you’ve got your head in a map, it‘s tough. I take my hat off to the best adventure race guys in the world.”
 
Like Archer, Colbert’s friendship with Webber is one of the reasons why he is doing the event but he is also looking forward to taking in the breathtaking scenery he will see along the way.
 
“The last time I did this event, it blew my mind. I don’t think too many people realise how beautiful Tasmania is. 
 
“At times through the last event I did, I had to pinch myself. It’s amazing what you are seeing and it’s right on everybody’s doorstep.
 
“Seeing all of this eases the pain of the event a little bit.  It is simply stunning.
 
“The camaraderie with the other competitors and the organisation that goes into the event makes it what it is.” 
 
The popularity of the Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge is increasing each year, so much so that participation in this year’s event is now fully booked out.

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