COMMUNITY GEM: Graeme Stewart

By Michele McPherson

Runner shares his lifelong passion with others
A lot can happen in 10 weeks.
A person can change their hair and get a new wardrobe.
A person can get a quarter of the way through pregnancy or even plan a wedding.
Or in 10 weeks, a person can go from not being able to run around the block to being able to run up Mauao.
The latter is a goal many people set for themselves and is being made achievable thanks to one Mount Maunganui man.
Graeme Stewart, 73, voluntarily runs a 10-week programme for beginner runners at the Mt Joggers and Walkers Club. Most of the women involved have had children and want to regain their bodies and get fit, Mr Stewart said.
Two mornings a week, Mr Stewart meets a group of about 30 women for their weekly runs. For the first five-week period, Mr Stewart trains the team to run 5km without stopping.
For the second five-week period, the group does hill running in preparation for the final challenge - running up Mauao.
Mr Stewart has been training teams of women twice a year for the past nine years.
During this time, he has motivated, educated and seen success with hundreds of women from Mount Maunganui and beyond.
No matter if some have never run in their life, Mr Stewart believes anyone can make a change.
"Anyone can do this. If you put your mind to it, anything is achievable," he said.
Running is a lifelong passion for Mr Stewart. Growing up, he was actively involved in sport and played rugby, tennis, golf and badminton. He was naturally athletic and began running for his high school.
Throughout his life, Mr Stewart continued running. For him, it was a way to clear his head as well as to keep fit and healthy.


Not long after he and his wife Gabrielle moved to Mount Maunganui from Hamilton in 1990, Mr Stewart was approached by his neighbour to check out the Mt Joggers and Walkers Club. Mr Stewart said he was "a little nervous" about joining the club but after joining 17 years ago, found being involved was a lot of fun.
"I think we're very lucky here. We have the parks, reserves and streets, we've got the beaches and must not forget the Mount, it's a lovely place to run," Mr Stewart said.
Before Mr Stewart joined the club, a 5-week running programme was partly established. This was run on an informal and irregular basis and when Mr Stewart joined, he recognised the need to start another programme.
At the moment, Mr Stewart and his current running group are midway through their 10-week programme. There are about 35 in the group - the largest group Mr Stewart has ever had.
When he is not running the 10-week programme, Mr Stewart trains with the Old Farts running group, for over 70-year-olds.
Mr Stewart and two others take part in the Bayfair Triathlon and the Tinman Triathlon - they do one discipline each. Mr Stewart also enjoys running half marathons.
"I like to run three times a week. If I'm training I go four times," Mr Stewart said.
Being fit is important to Mr Stewart.
"It's very important. I look around and a lot of my peers have died and I do put it down to my fitness," he said.
"My goal is to live until I'm 120. That's what I'm going to do. When I reached 60 I decided I was only halfway through my life."
Mr Stewart works part time at the Mount Ocean Sports Club. He has been doing maintenance work for the past 16 years.
On Monday nights, he works at a liquor store in downtown Mount Maunganui.
Being involved in the running programme gives Mr Stewart many rewards.
"I love seeing the ladies succeed. They're so happy when they reach the 5km mark because many thought they would never be able to make it."
Mount Maunganui woman Jo Gormlie is a runner in Mr Stewart's current programme.
She said Mr Stewart was a patient, understanding and encouraging teacher.
Mt Joggers and Walkers Club president Jill Fuller said Mr Stewart had changed many lives in a positive way.
"He's very humble and just the nicest person who will go out of his way to help anyone," she said.
"We love him dearly."
RECOGNITION
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