At the start of this year Whangārei woman Tessa Lang was on the couch thinking of ways to honour her late father Darren Lang, who suddenly died in May 2016 from a heart attack, aged just 46.

Tessa admits she was unfit, overweight and wondering what to do with the anniversary of her Dad's death in May and his birthday on August 5.

So she decided to get off the couch, get fitter and complete a marathon - all 42km.

And on Saturday Tessa walked around Whangārei's Hatea Loop Walkway 10 times to complete the marathon effort that has left her elated and happy to honour her father.

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Tessa, a baker, aged 26, said she had always been unfit, didn't eat well and did not do a lot of exercise.

''When that happened to Dad it makes you think about what your lifestyle is and how healthy you are and the path you are taking,'' she said.

''If I carried on (her lifestyle) I could only see me heading down the same path (towards an early death) and I didn't want that. So I decided to get healthier.''

Tessa Lang with her late father Darren at her fifth birthday.
Tessa Lang with her late father Darren at her fifth birthday.

So, she climbed off the couch, joined Weight Watchers, started ''walking, and walking and walking'' to get fitter and gave herself the challenge of walking a marathon to honour her father and to raise money and awareness for the Heart Foundation.

Tessa began her training back in January 2019, when she decided to do something in her father's memory and to gain control of an unhealthy lifestyle. Over the year Tessa has lost 20kg and raised more than $1000 for the Heart Foundation.

''It was coming up to Dad's third year anniversary and I wanted to do something in remembrance of him. I also had a weight problem and an unhealthy relationship with food that could have led me down the same path as Dad, so I needed something that sorted both things. I knew I wanted to make an impact so I thought walking a marathon would be the perfect thing.''

On her loops, Tessa was joined by family and friends, with some joining her for parts of the walk. Her paternal grandmother, Elaine Lang joined her on several of the laps, in memory of her late son, saying she was behind Tessa every step of the way.

Thomas Lang, Tessa's two-week-old nephew, who would have been Darren's first grandchild, also joined in for a lap. The emotion was obvious on the day as Tessa counted down the kilometres. In eight and a half hours the task was finally complete.

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''The feeling was overwhelming. The second to last lap I didn't think I could do another one. Then I found this burst of energy inside me that pushed me to get the last one done. As soon as I crossed the finish line I burst into tears. I just couldn't believe I had actually done it,'' she said.

Tessa said her Dad would be proud of her marathon effort, but this was not the end of her efforts to get fitter and healthier.

''Doing the marathon for Dad was really great motivation to keep me focussed . . . now I've got to find something else to keep me motivated. It won't be another marathon, but watch this space.''

Anybody who would like to donate or follow the rest of Tessa's journey you can follow her page "Walking for Dad" on Facebook to find the link to her everyday hero page. Tessa works at Cuppacakes in Whangārei.