Pukemiro students hitting the beach

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Dennis Nathan (left, 8), Dahlia Pirini (5), and Tokowhati Piripi (7), three of Pukemiro's best junior runners, with their Waimirirangi classmates, ready for their big challenge tomorrow.
Dennis Nathan (left, 8), Dahlia Pirini (5), and Tokowhati Piripi (7), three of Pukemiro's best junior runners, with their Waimirirangi classmates, ready for their big challenge tomorrow.

The students at Kaitaia's Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Pukemiro will head for Te Oneroa-a-Tohe (90 Mile Beach) tomorrow, but not for a day off.

They'll be donning their running shoes, ready to expend considerable energy in celebration of legendary ancestor Te Houtaewa.

The school has taken up the challenge of keeping the run alive after the Te Houtaewa Maori Charitable Trust cancelled the 2016 event, now in its 25th year, due to sad and unforeseen circumstances.

The sudden passing of respected kaumatua Dr Bruce Gregory in November prompted the trust to cancel this year's marathon, with a view to reinstating it in 2017. The kura deciding to run en masse tomorrow, as a mark of respect for Dr Gregory and to support the school's curriculum.

Kaiako Eileen Murray said the event would be split into three stages for the students, the top senior runners participating in a 63km relay, with the other students a 21km walk.

The junior classes will take part in a 6km Walk for Life fun run relay dedicated to Dr Gregory's memory, the option that has traditionally appealed to the largest group of runners.

"We decided to carry on doing the Te Houtaewa run this year because it's relevant to us," Ms Murray said.

"We have buildings dedicated to our tupuna - including Te Houtaewa and Tohe - and we study our tupuna. The enduring reason why we decided to continue with the race this year was in the interest of whanaungatanga."

Kaiako Raihera Heka said the event would include an novel element, the relay runners passing a kumara rather than a baton, as a means of supporting the legend of Te Houtaewa.

This would be the sixth year that Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Pukemiro had participated in the run, she added, and the trust had been enormously supportive in providing prizes, while parents and family of students would be on the beach as support crew.

Other community organisations rallying behind the event included Petricevich Buses, Ritchies Transport, Te Rarawa Anga Mua, Te Hiku Hauora and He Korowai Trust.

Healthy Families Far North manager Allan Pivac said the school was an excellent example of maintaining a tradition that supported all aspects of well-being through a tikanga Maori lens.

"We commend Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Pukemiro for continuing on with the event this year, marrying together locally relevant Maori legend and values with physical activity," he said. "The kura is to be congratulated for its initiative."

- Northland Age

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