28 Mar 2017

Whanganui River Road Relay crosses eight marae

3:38 pm on 28 March 2017

Whanganui Māori have walked or run the winding banks of the Whanganui River to breathe life into the area.

A view of the settlement of Jerusalem on the banks of the Whanganui River

The oldest relay entrant was about 86 years old and walked from Jerusalem (pictured) to Ruaka, Ranana. Photo: Flickr / _persona_ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

About 160 people took part in a 55km walk or run from Pipiriki to Pungarehu - crossing eight marae.

Two hip replacements could not stop 78-year-old Kataraina Millin from taking part in the Saturday event.

The Ruaka Marae co-chair said 15 people represented her marae team, most of whom were over 70 years old.

"We thought, 'oh yay this is going to get us walking to build up towards our relay - get us out there'."

Preparing for the start of the relay.

Preparing for the start of the relay. Photo: Te Oranganui organisation.

"Our oldest would have been 86 and she did walk from Jerusalem to Ruaka, Ranana."

"Even though we did it at our own pace - that was good."

Known to locals as Nanny Lye, Mrs Millin walked 3.5km of the relay.

As well as improving fitness, the event was good for the marae, she said.

"It brought our families home who live away from Ruaka and who live away from our marae ... that was wonderful."

"I said, 'oh look, we would never have met these mokopunas - some of them were mummies and grandmothers - if it wasn't for our marae relay'."

It is the second time iwi service provider Te Oranganui has run the Whanganui River Road Relay.

Organiser Kylee Osborne said participation almost doubled from 2016 - to 160 people this year.

Jay Rerekura speaks to relay participants.

Jay Rerekura speaks to relay participants. Photo: Te Oranganui organisation.

She said the river was a draw card to get Māori active.

"It allows them to strengthen their ties and their bonds and it keeps everything along that river road alive.

"On the day, that whole river road buzzes."

"The nannies - when they're walking, it takes them a little while. Half of that is because they are stopping and they are pointing out things and they are having a really good korero."

Stacey Ranginui ran in a team with one of her sisters last year. Her whanau entered three teams at the weekend.

She said it was good to see her family members, who were not very active, get out there.

"Usually when you are driving up the river road you only briefly get to see bits and pieces of the beauty that's up there.

"When you have to run or walk a leg, you get to see in full depth what it is actually like."

It was not only local Māori mesmerised by the scenery.

Whanganui District Council development engineer Damien Wood has run more than 12 marathons and ranks this run at the top.

"It goes down as my favourite ultra marathon ... it is second to none."

Mr Wood completed the route in six hours, 40 minutes. The Tapa and Peina whanau secured the shortest time at five hours.