Whānau on Te Arawa Whānau Ora’s Whaimua respiratory programme took part in the Podium Rotorua Ekiden on 12 October. The Ekiden relay consists of six team members running or walking a total of 42.2kms – marathon distance – around Lake Rotorua. Leg distances range from 4.7km to 8.3km.
Whaimua paeārahi, Mariana Vercoe, says whānau were paired up to cover each leg, at distances which suited their ability.
“They’ve been training for four months, starting with walks every Monday morning, as well as two days a week in Tōku Oranga (pulmonary rehabilitation). Two months before the event, we introduced Saturday morning training. We picked different spots to train, but mostly circled the Rotorua golf course. Eventually we extended the walk out to Devon Street and Malfroy Road as their fitness increased.”
Mariana says there were concerns leading up to race-day on whether all team members could complete their leg, given their respiratory conditions. A contingency plan was hatched, where a staff member or other participant would take over the leg if a walker was unable to continue.
“Much to our surprise, most of them completed their leg – with a couple of people walking extra distances alongside their team mates to boost their morale.
“They were so proud and happy to have completed the Ekiden. They’re still buzzing a week later. And I’m proud of them too. A year ago, they could barely walk for six minutes without getting breathless and now they’re doing at least five kilometres, which is cool,” says Mariana.
First-time Ekiden participant, Hauni Te Moana (pictured far right), completed the leg from Rotorua Airport to Puketawhero Park and is thrilled to have taken part.
“We were all big smiles, we couldn’t help ourselves, and congratulating everyone at the end – we were almost crying. And we didn’t finish last, as we expected.
“It’s a big challenge for our Whaimua group because we all have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and we’ve all got puffers and lung problems. I’ve been on the programme since the beginning of the year. Back then I couldn’t even walk out the door, so there’s been real improvements. The staff and supervisors are excellent and have also been helping me mentally, physically and I’ve been happy ever since I joined this group.”
Hauni now plans on taking part in the Rotorua Marathon’s 10km walking event from the Lakefront to The Redwoods, and back.
“The Whaimua programme has been great inspiration for us to achieve what we did, and for the future. We’re all like a family.”