The fancy dress component of Rotorua's annual Ekiden has become almost as popular as the relay itself.

It's not uncommon to see a sea of colour but this Saturday will be the first you will see a team carrying sticks weighted with stones.

Weighted log running (Maiho'a Rā'au) is a Tahitian style of running where traditionally, the logs were loaded with tropical fruits (as much as the runner could bear) and exchanged between villages.

Maiho'a Rā'au is one of the events held at the annual Tahitian Ancestral Games.


Stevie Te Moni, who works for Te Papa Takaro o Te Arawa, said about five years ago organisers of the Tahitian Ancestral Games asked if they would consider sending a team to compete at the event.

And that's how it started.

This year Te Moni emailed Ekiden organiser Martin Croft from JAM Events, asking permission for a team to run the relay carrying sticks.

"We had concerns they may have been a perceived danger in hitting other participants with the sticks and wanted to assure organisers we had been doing this form of running for a few years and were confident we could compete without endangering others," Te Moni said.

The lengths of the stick are between 1.2 and 1.5m with women carrying 15kg and men either 30kg or 50kg.

"In Tahiti we run over short distances (1.1km to 1.4km) so I'd expect our pace will be rather slow for the Ekiden – although not too slow."

Croft said relay organisers were very keen to accommodate the Tahitian runners.

"This year is the 15th time the relay has been run and it is gaining in popularity," Croft said.

"It's a very social, fun event and we welcome everyone to come and give it a go."

He said fancy dress had been introduced somewhere along the 15-year relay history which had added to its appeal.

"We have the world champion fancy dress category, the fastest fancy dress team and also a people's choice fancy dress award."

The relay is 42.2km journey that starts and finishes at the Village Green. It is raced in six legs around Lake Rotorua.

Croft said 250 teams - about 1500 people - were expected on the day.

Final registration for the Ekiden takes place between 7am and 9am at the Novotel with walkers starting at 9.30am and runners at 10.30am.

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