IronMaori triathlon catching on as path to fitness

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IronMaori Taranaki competitors prepare for the swim section.

The IronMaori way of life is taking hold across the region, with more people than ever getting involved.

About 650 competitors turned up on Saturday to take part in the triathlon, which was held in Hawera for the first time. A children’s race was also held on Friday night.

IronMaori organiser Heather Skipworth said the number of people taking part in Taranaki had increased every year since it was first held in Waitara in 2013.

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Wharekuka Tongaawhikau ran with a photo of her uncle Pue Whakaruru who died during last years event.
She said the vision of Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui’s Debbie Ngarewa-Packer to bring Iron Maori to Hawera had also resulted in an increase in South Taranaki participants too.

“Deb’s view was to get the people around here to be active and change their lifestyles. It’s obviously done its job,” said Skipworth, who is the brains behind the popular event.

The first IronMaori was held in 2009 in Napier after Skipworth discovered through her lifestyle coaching job that triathlons were one way to motivate unfit people to get off the couch.

“They need that little something to think they are iron-like, to give them that sense of achievement,” she said.

Patea’s Mikey Takao, 30, is one who has been bitten by the IronMaori bug.

He completed the 300m swim leg as part of a team but said he wanted to race solo in 2016.

“Hopefully next year I’ll be able to do the individual, that’s my goal,” he said.

He said he really enjoyed the support everyone gave each other and encouraged others to give it a go too. “It’s a positive event, not just for Maori but for everyone,” he said.

Taranaki Toa team member Alf Robson said about 40 of his group took part but there was a growing interest in being part of the IronMaori movement.

One thing he enjoyed about the event was the fact that everyone’s achievement was celebrated.

“I think you’ll find that the biggest cheer will be for the last person across the finish line, not the first,” he said.


The spirit of Pue Whakaruru was evident during IronMaori Taranaki in Hawera on Saturday.

Whakaruru, 73, died at the end of last year’s event, and many of this year’s competitors, including his daughter Maxine and a team from Tui Ora, took part as a way to honour his memory.

Wharekuka Tongaawhikau carried a picture of Whakaruru and competed as No 417 – the number Whakaruru wore last year. Although it was “really hard and really emotional” it meant a lot to the whanau to acknowledge the contributions he made, she said.

Mr Whakaruru spent most of his life in Waikato and Taranaki, and worked in health and education fields.


 – Taranaki Daily News

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