Bush marathon the road to well-being

By Vicki Woolley

The Surf2Firth is an exacting journey from Coromandel's idyllic beaches to the Firth of Thames. Photo / Richard Tucker
The Surf2Firth is an exacting journey from Coromandel's idyllic beaches to the Firth of Thames. Photo / Richard Tucker

Ian Handcock walks his talk.

The dairy consultant and father of three grew up on a sheep farm, played rugby and worked as a builder before he went dairy farming.

"I lost my fitness, morphed into consultancy and ended up 115kg. One summer, I walked over the [Coromandel] Ranges: it took 12 hours and pretty well buggered my knees. The doctor was not impressed that I hadn't done any build-up for it so pretty well dismissed me. However, the seed was sown."

Observing a decline in the health and wellbeing of clients, Handcock began to develop an interest in human behaviour and productivity. He noted a change over the years.

"Farmers [previously] kept themselves fit and energetic by doing manual work developing their farms. They were regularly involved with local sports clubs and community events. Today, farmers have to look off the farm for physical exercise. The advent of social networking, live sport on television and a change in social habits affects the motivation to keep active outside the workplace.

"In my job, I deal with farmers going through a hell of a time. Until I can get them thinking clearly, I cannot help them adapt. Exercise is a major part of the jigsaw we have forgotten."

Handcock completed a research paper on his findings, then established the Fit4Farming Trust in 2014 to turn the theory of healthy living into action. He would like to see New Zealand gain global recognition by becoming the healthiest, fittest farming nation in the world.

Remembering his own wake-up call, Handcock organises the annual Surf2Firth Bush marathon traversing the Coromandel Peninsula from Hikuai to Thames with the reputation of being the country's most technically challenging off-road marathon.

"When I got really stressed while farming, I found running gave me time to think. It is also fatigue management from a different perspective: if you are tired, get fitter so you won't get tired at the same threshold. The more exercise I did, the more conscious I became of what I ate - an upward spiral towards good health."

Surf2Firth

What: Bush Marathon, 22km and 14km run
When: Saturday, March 12
Where: Coromandel
For more information: www.surf2firth.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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