National | Cancer

Cyclist sacrifices kai for cancer campaign

Teneka Ellison-Pere says she has no time for kai    Photo / Snear Your Mea

Ōtāne self-employed business owner Teneka Ellison-Pere spent her lunch hour today squeezing in a 35km cycle training in the lead-up to the 660+ km marathon ride in an effort to raise awareness of cervical and prostate cancers, and it's a big commitment.

"Pretty much any spare time I can find between work. I was doing 15-hour workdays during Christmas and trying to fit in training is crazy," Ellison-Pere says.

From Te Whanganui a Tara to Tāmaki Makaurau, she and 16 other cyclists will traverse nearly 700km over eight days to arrive at Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Competition 2023.

"I don't think I am recovering, to be honest. I'm trying to slam my body. I live out of town and there is not much support on our roads. I'm literally smashing my body. When it comes to kai, that's not my priority."

The marathon cycle is being organised as part of the Smear Your Mea Campaign founded by the late Talei Morrison - iconic kapa haka performer of Te Mātārae-i-o-Rehu. Morrison died in 2018 of cervical cancer and her last months were spent encouraging others to have regular smear tests. The 17 cyclists include Smear Your Mea trustee and former Māori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

Taking mobile clinic

"Just on the weekend, six of us cycled 110km on one day, and 80 the day before that," Flavell says.

The 17-strong group of cyclists, 10 of whom are women, are from around the country and include 73-year-old Brian McGrath. The riders are averaging 50km a day in training, some days up to over 100km which takes about four hours. Their planned trip will start at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington where the last Te Matatini held a pōhiri, averaging 120km per day.

Their final destination is Ōrākei in Auckland where they'll arrive at the pōhiri for the 2023 Te Matatini Herenga Waka Festival on February 21.

The cyclists will be accompanied by a mobile testing clinic and a support crew who will follow them from Wellington to Foxton - Rātā - Ōhākune - Taupō - Hamilton - Māngere - Ōrākei. The testing clinic will be set up at each destination so people can take a screening test along the route.

"We'll be staying at Mānukanuka-o-Hoturoa marae on Monday night, in the morning travel from Mangere to Ōrākei where Ngāti Whātua will look after us," Flavell says.

The campaign cycle will kick off on February 13 in Te Whanganui-a-Tara with a karakia outside Te Papa Museum.