Sport | China

Māori contingent takes on the Great Wall of China marathon

A Māori contingent is taking part in the biggest fitness challenge of their lives as they prepare to take on 5,146 steps in the Great Wall of China Marathon in May. They're putting in the mileage before they run the length of one of mankind's biggest feats.

It's one of the most revered marathons in the world.

Rosie Bennett-Walker (Tainui) says, "I've never ever done a marathon so I was like okay, at the time it was a big yes because I thought it was just a normal road one. And then we researched it, went on the Youtube and thought omg this ain't no road marathon, this is going upstairs and challenging the body."

Bennett-Walker and Tania Henare are just two of 90 runners in the New Zealand and Australian contingent that will compete alongside 2,500 others from around the world, in three categories of the Marathon: the full marathon, half marathon and 8.5km fun run.

Tania Henare (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Rongoū) says, "I'm looking forward to the Great Wall of China just cause it's like one of the 7th wonders of the world but I'm looking forward to running through the villages and experiencing time with the people in the villages and stuff."

The contingent has been training every day since May of last year and posting their progress on Facebook.

Bennett-Walker says, "We started with just walking, just walking around the block. That's now extended to 3-hour walking sessions."'

Henare says, "Bit of Tabatta training, high-intensity training so yeah just mixing it up now really doing a bit of everything. Some boxing."

It has cost $6000 per member to self-fund their own trip. For many like Rosie, it will be their first marathon. She says the expense is all worth it.

Rosie Bennett-Walker says, "I started the journey at 128kgs, I'm now at 108kg. 43 weeks ago so to date, I've lost 20kg my goal is to get to 99kg before China so I've got a month and a half to go, so I believe I'm going to get there."

But for these two the marathon doesn't end at the finish line.

"I encourage all our whanau to give any marathon a go. Doesn't have to be something on the other side of the world, but even if it's around in your own back doors. There's lots, just give it a go," says Bennett-Walker.
Henare says, "Yeah and I think once you set your mindset that you really want to do something especially if you have a reason or a purpose then you can do it."