The New Zealand city of New Plymouth and the Taranaki region is a place close to my heart after living there between the ages of 9 to 13. Some of my best childhood memories were made there. One of them is of a kid called Jamie Turner, who used to hang around with his BMX and ride with my younger brother.
Fast forward 30 something years and I have bumped in to Jamie now as one of the leading triathlon coaches in the world.
Turner has a passion for his homeland which extends to using his triathlon experience to inspire and support Taranaki whanau to participate in triathlon and other multi-discipline events to pursue a hauora journey (a healthier lifestyle) and to improve the holistic health and wellbeing of Taranaki Māori.
This weekend Jamie will join forces with the Taranaki Toa triathlon group to present at and support a camp for its members at Muru Raupatu Marae. In all, 32 members will be attending the fully subscribed weekend.
The purpose is to bring the members together, share knowledge and engage in training activities to help them on their journey to participate in events on the triathlon calendar, including IronMaori, TriMaori, the Mounga TriSeries and Ironman in 2017.
This hauora journey is far more enjoyable when travelled with others. It’s the hope that the camp will provide the burgeoning athletes with information to help them along on their journeys. It’s also an opportunity to bring everyone together in an environment where they can support each other in a weekend of exercise and activity, pushing their limits and extending them to achieve beyond our own expectations.
There will be a mix of novices, experienced and seasoned triathlon campaigners. After all, everyone started in the same place. None are professional athletes, we exercise more for life than competition, however some of have learned valuable lessons along the way, and are happy to share these experiences with participants. We will also get advice from experts to assist us on our journey.
Taranaki Toa was formed in 2012; the dream of a small but intensely passionate group of Taranaki whānau who wanted to influence positive change and create a hauora (health & wellness) pathway for Taranaki whānau to participate in regular physical activity and pursue a healthy lifestyle through triathlon. Taranaki Toa was inspired by the example of the highly successful ironmaori kaupapa in Napier.
For Taranaki Toa, pursuing a hauora journey – through regular physical activity and training in the disciplines of triathlon – is a wonderful, enriching experience. Those who have made a start on this journey, say you can’t explain it – the joy and fulfilment that it brings. Yes, sometimes there is pain and there is definitely sacrifice but the rewards are great.
They also work at sharing the wider hauora message with whānau, focusing on the benefits of good nutrition/diet and regular exercise, as well as the inherent risks and harm associated with illicit drug use, alcohol, smoking and gambling.
For them, Taranaki Toa is based on some key values – aroha (caring for others), whanaungatanga (relationships), manaakitanga (supporting others) and pono (integrity). They also have tikanga (agreed practices) that guide them. For example, the karakia (recite a prayer) at the beginning of each activity.
This is a precious kaupapa that motivates, supports and energises them. It is open to anyone – young or old, short or tall, large or small – who wants to participate and embrace these values. They are not exclusively Māori, although make no bones about it, Māori are the target audience because poor Māori health and wellbeing is shortening the lives of whānau everywhere. But some of the staunchest supporters and advocates are non-Māori, and they are a very important part of the whānau.
From very small and humble beginnings, Taranaki Toa has continued to grow and inspire whanau to pursue healthier and active lifestyles. The Taranaki Toa Triathlon Facebook page currently has more than 850 members, and is increasing. They constantly meet people who have drawn inspiration from their posts and who now share the journey with them. They have members from all over Aotearoa (New Zealand) and it is incredible to see how far their message reaches.