73-year-old kuia inspires participation in IronMāori

Ka whakaawetia e te kuia 73 ōna tau te whai wāhitanga atu ki IronMāori

Waiora Rogers is described as a treasure, a true champion, and an inspiration. And most just call her Aunty.

Waiora Rogers has participated in 11 half IronMāori events. She's about to turn 74.

As one of the first to sign up when the event began, she says health is important to her people and IronMāori is all about that.

"I think if you lead by example, sometimes, somebody might want to do what you're doing."

Heather Skipworth started IronMāori in 2009 and it's grown to include several events throughout the year.

"Whakawhānaungatanga is the key theme," says Heather. "Inclusiveness of IronMāori means that you can compete, or you can come and get your money's worth and take as long as you like.

"Every single person out there from our tamariki all the way up to our kaumātua are leading by example."

According to Heather, each competitor is a powerful reminder that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.

Heather and Waiora have known each other for years. Each of them spreading the kaupapa of IronMāori far and wide.

"Aunty Waiora," as she is known among the community, "is an inspiration to many of us. Waiora being there is enough to inspire people to keep moving," Heather says.

A wonderful kaupapa

Waiora says IronMāori has proven itself as a wonderful thing for her people to become a part of. People can get past the point of 'no, I can't do this' and learn to start running from lamp post to lamp post.

"The reason I wanted to be the first to sign up was I felt good about the kaupapa itself, and I thought it was a good starting point for all of us to learn how to do this amazing event."

Louise Hawea, Waiora's niece, shares a whakataukī – a proverb – that embodies the kaupapa that is IronMāori: "Whāia te iti kahurangi, ki te tuohu me he maunga teitei – seek that which is most precious, if you should bow, let it be to a lofty mountain."

It isn't a competition, Louise says – that's where a lot of people can feel intimidated.

"This event wasn't just for the fast runners and the bodybuilders. This event is for whānau. Despite your level of fitness or health – there's a place for you here."

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Encouraging others and bringing people together

Aunty Waiora has inspired many to participate in IronMāori. One of those people is Albie Hawea.

Albie started doing IronMāori because of his health. He'd found out he had diabetes and thought he needed to do something about it. The first time he participated was as a team with his wife and son.

"IronMāori has given us the opportunity to better ourselves, not only fitness-wise but health-wise. We call it whanaungatanga – bring everyone together – like today, Aunty Waiora brought us together," he says.

"She's a person that's inspirational. She's a person that's an ambassador for IronMāori. She just encourages people and that's what IronMāori has done for a lot of people – it's given them the belief they can go and try anything they do, and they don't have to win it.

"IronMāori inspires people and encourages people. It's not about you winning but it's about you just participating. You're a winner because you've got to the start line," Albie says.

Wellbeing for the people

At IronMāori, everyone gets a medal. Aunty Waiora says the medal is taonga and people wear it with pride.

"They're showing themselves what we can do and what we can achieve. For me this is what it gives back to our people – self-belief – we believe to achieve. That's why I just love IronMāori, because that's what it gives us."

And it's not just pride that IronMāori gives, Wairoa says, "It's the whole kaupapa of whanaungatanga which is what we're good at, which is part of us as a people. I think if we can teach our people, or anybody about whanaungatanga, you become a better person."

It's also physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. Waiora says it's very important for her people to be healthy because if you have a healthy body, you have a healthy mind.

"It's as simple as getting fit. Having a healthy body and with that comes a sense of wellbeing. And then people grow from that."

Aunty Waiora embodies everything that IronMāori represents, says Lousie.

"She's our treasure. And in my eyes, she's the true champion of IronMāori. She's a strong woman with a pure heart."

We support the kaupapa that is IronMāori to encourage and promote whānau wellness by supporting good preparation for individual wellness journeys. We do this through the sponsorship of IronMāori and the ACC SportSmart programme which helps minimise the risk of injury through good warm-up skills.

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