She has never run a marathon before, in fact she hasn't run since school, but 24-year-old Viarni Bright is embracing her new role as ambassador of the Tauranga International Marathon, and is already in training for the September event.

"I haven't entered an official run outside of school before. I used to play a lot of sport which involved running, however after school it unfortunately just wasn't something I continued after starting to travel and then going into fulltime work."

Bright, from Mount Maunganui, lives in Auckland but is a regular visitor to her parents' home in the Mount and catching up with friends from Mount College.

The social media star is joining Papamoa-based singer Tiki Taane and broadcaster Mike McRoberts as ambassadors for the event on Saturday, September 22.


Last year's inaugural Tauranga International Marathon saw more than 1200 runners take to the streets of Tauranga.

The marathon, organised by Total Sport, boasts a "flat, fast and fun" terrain. There are 42.2km, 21.1km, 12km and 6km options, as well as a 2km kids' (and parents') dash.

Tauranga International Marathon will again partner with Live More Awesome, a non-profit charity and movement dedicated to "inspiring, encouraging, informing and finding help for people struggling with their mental health".

Live More Awesome's mission is to reinforce that everybody has mental health that needs to be acknowledged and looked after, just like their physical health.

For the first time, the Tauranga International Marathon will also partner with Girls Who Run NZ for the 12km event.

Girls Who Run NZ is a new coaching programme and "tribe" of female Kiwi runners, connecting and inspiring each other to reach their running goals. It was established this year by coach Maree Leith and already has hundreds of participants.

Bright is a few weeks into her training programme with them.

"Before this I hadn't had any form of exercise regime in years. Besides kiteboarding or snowboarding I have dabbled in gym classes and walking a few times a week but never really go into a proper routine. This has really been a kick up the ass to be more motivated about exercise! So far it's been great for my body and mind."


She says the training is quite full on.

"I do four runs and one day of cross training a week, leaving two rest/stretch days. To help kick start my training I have been doing Dry July which I have found helpful in making sure I commit to all my training, especially weekends."

Bright is running to raise funds and awareness for Crohn's and Colitis NZ. She herself has Crohn's, having been diagnosed with the autoimmune disease at 19 and at just 21 had to have 40cm of her bowel removed.

She now takes daily immune suppressants and has to inject herself every fortnight with a biologic.

"Each day is different, there's good ones and bad ones. Right now day to day the biggest effects it has on me is the abdominal pain over regular bowel movements and a big one for me is the fatigue, which is why training and completing this half marathon is quite a big deal for me."

She does have to watch her diet, which can be hard.


"I am a big foodie, so unless I am having a bad flare up I try not to let it rule my life. I love food. I do my best to avoid gluten, although sometimes I just want a damn scone from the cafe! For me anything that is hard for the bowel to process or a natural laxative can trigger symptoms. I don't eat a lot of meat, spicy or incredibly fibrous foods."

The condition also affects her weight and energy levels.

"Before I had my Ileocolic resection surgery, I got down to 53kg, which is around 10kg lighter than I am now, and I never had any energy for exercise. My body wasn't taking in any nutrients and I couldn't keep the weight on. However, since then I have been on various medications to help the disease and my overall wellbeing has been better so my weight is fairly normal right now."

Bright says taking part in the marathon will also raise funds for Camp Purple, a six-day camp for kids battling bowel disease.

The former The Bachelor star who dated Bachelor Zac Franich for a while says there is no one special in her life at the moment.

When: Saturday, September 22


What: There are 42.2km, 21.1km, 12km and 6km options, as well as a 2km kids' (and parents') dash.

Course: The full marathon starts in Papamoa. Runners will speed on a direct course towards Mount Maunganui, along the ocean, before travelling around the Mauao base track, soaking in the views.

They'll run past Pilot Bay then up and over the Tauranga harbour bridge and back to the water's edge on the other side. More views will meet them there as they make their way along the foreshore to Fergusson Park and back.

Finally, runners will meander through the Waikareao Eastuary, including the Daisy Hardwick boardwalk, before finishing in the heart of the city centre, where they will be awarded their medal and soak up the celebratory atmosphere at the finish line.

The first woman and man in the Tauranga International Marathon will receive $2000 each, with second place getters nabbing $1000 and third place $500. In the half marathon, the first-placed woman and man will each receive $1000, with second placegetters taking out $500 and third $250.

Aaron Carter, founder of Total Sport and the Tauranga International Marathon, says this year's course will be slightly different — "from Papamoa to The Strand — and will end with a big party at the finish line, not only for runners, but their supporters and the Tauranga community to enjoy. Because of the flat and fast course and the stunning views, it's a bucket list event for seasoned runners as well as an ideal first-time option."