It's true that IronMaori is a half-ironman - 2km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run.

It is however, an event like no other.

Unless you have experienced the day centred around Pandora Pond in Ahuriri, Napier, you will not completely understand.

But for those taking part, and those watching it can be an almost spiritual experience.


That's because it's about wairua, aroha, the gaining of mana, and finding the true meaning of whanau.

For many it is about accepting the challenge to change their life for the better.

Heather Skipworth wanted to attack the poor Maori health statistics she was painfully aware of as a lifestyle coach when she founded the event in 2009, after an epiphany while competing in Ironman New Zealand 2012. And how the momentum has built since that humble but beautiful beginning when just under 300 competitors took part.

While the event is not exclusive to Maori, the brand, IronMaori, has been a magnet to the tangata whenua.

They participate for different reasons. Some, like defending champion Kevin Nicholson, originally came because triathlon is what they do. But even they are touched by the IronMaori kaupapa.

For it is those who make a major shift in their lifestyle who put a glint in IronMaori eyes. Those who after many years of inactivity where family life has overtaken them, or more sinister problems such as alcohol, drug, food, cigarette or gambling addictions have interfered, suddenly decide to take up the challenge.

For them IronMaori is a day like no other. It is the culmination of a journey. A journey of sacrifice, a journey of self discovery, an uplifting journey for the individual and all who know them.

Make no mistake, this is an outstanding local success story on every level.


Of the more than 1500 competitors taking part tomorrow, more than half have travelled from out of town. And the Te Timatanga Ararau Trust have shown they are ambitious, adding a duathlon in Wellington this year, and today, Tamariki and Rangatahi events in Ahuriri. There is no doubt the ripple effect from previous IronMaori in whanau life has been extraordinary, with many of this weekend's competitors closely related to previous participants. It's a case of seeing is believing - if they can do it, so can I.

I note with disappointment that "Dame Heather" has yet to receive any form of Hawke's Bay civic award despite being a Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leader, and twice Ngati Kahungunu Sports Administrator of the Year. More than that though, she is an entrepreneur with a giant heart - and complementing her are close friends Missy and George Mackey.

The sponsors are now knocking at the door. Australia beckons. IronMaori Australia, IronMaori Perth, IronMaori Brisbane ... Cherish this event Hawke's Bay, because other provinces are already trying to take it away. Get out and support it. You just might find yourself taking up the challenge next year.

As for this year's competitors - Kia Kaha IronMaori.

Grant Harding will ride the cycle leg in the IronMaori relay for Froggie's Fitness Fanatics. His blog Grant Harding Ironman II is published at every Monday.