More than 1600 women traversed coastline, farmlands and waterways as part of the fourth annual Spirited Women - All Women’s Adventure Race here on Saturday.
Tairawhiti lived up to its name and served plenty of sunshine for the 1620 women, who, in teams of four, competed in either a short, medium or long course of the multisport event.
Their adventure included trekking over local landmarks, beach running, river kayaking, mountain biking, gumboot throwing, bridge-jumping and an obstacle course.
For the fourth consecutive year, Team NZ Adventure Retreat took the honours as the top overall team in the long course.
Team stalwarts Kym Skerman of Bulls, and Elke Beca of Tauranga, were this year joined by Sarah Backler and Hannah Lowe, also of Tauranga.
They reached the start/finish line at Wainui Surf Life Saving Club 7 hours 33 minutes 21 seconds after the start gun at 6am on Saturday.
The long course required the athletes to run from Wainui Beach, trek across farmland around Sponge Bay and Papawhariki, climb Titirangi/Kaiti Hill, bridge-jump into the Turanganui River, run to Anzac Park, kayak along the Waimata River, mountain-bike and further trekking across farmland in the Waimata Valley and make a dash back over the Makorori headland to Wainui.
“We raced hard from the start and got through a fair bit of ground in the dark,” said Skerman.
“It was a good course. You’ve got some steep hills around here,” said Beca.
Among the highlights for the team was seeing the sun rise and the bridge-jump off the railway bridge that crosses the Turanganui River.
“The coastal views were stunning,” said Lowe. “It was only my second time in Gisborne and it was great to see and experience so much of the area.”
“We were also impressed by the teams who battled through the night to get to the finish line,” said Backler. “Hats off to them and the volunteers. It was a long day."
One of the local teams representing Tairawhiti was Huringa Pai Wahine Toa.
Sponsored by Tairawhiti Gisborne — also the title-sponsor of the event — the combination of Whetumarama Mita, Tutira Poi, Kenzie Holmes and Erena Clarke made an ecstatic run to the finish line holding the Huringa Pai banner.
Race director Neil Gellatly said it was a “wonderful weekend in Tairawhiti . . . the highlight, was seeing so many women really push themselves and go beyond their comfort zone”.
As well as the stunning scenic views, the richness of Tairawhiti culture and heritage was also on display for all to experience.
The women received a pohiri welcome by Ngati Oneone at Te Poho o Rawiri Marae on Friday night.
The marae had the capacity to host the 1600-strong crowd thanks to the new wharekai (dining hall), Te Poho o Hineituhia o Te Rangi - named after another “spirited woman”, Hineituhia - an ancestress of the iwi.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better venue,” said Gellatly. “The cultural significance, it was awesome.”
To organise an event of this scale required a great team, he said.
"My event manager Kezia Trask and I, work all year round on this event, we have a big team of event staff working over the event week and a huge number of local marshals who work on the event day itself. They really put in the time and effort to help make this event the success it is.
“Credit must also go to the Eastland Community Trust and Tairawhiti Gisborne. They are doing incredible things for this region. Promoting Tairawhiti, bringing vibrancy to the community, and really putting it on the map."
Eastland Community Trust chief executive Gavin Murphy and trustee Jill Chrisp expressed their gratitude to the race organisers who were “a pleasure to work with”, their own staff and all competitors.
As well as showcasing “how awesome our region is”, it gave locals the chance to “get out there, be active and compete in an event like this”.
“Hopefully you got a taste for how incredible it is here and how much we have to offer, we look forward to seeing you back again with your families for a holiday.”
Now the event management team look to 2020, which sees the event expanding into two races - one in the North Island, and another in the South Island.
Alexandra in the South Island will host the event in mid-February next year, followed by Central Hawke's Bay in the North Island six weeks later in late March.