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Everest climb puts a spring in your step

Opinion Piece

Seven years ago, two of my adult children came home and said let’s do the Everest Challenge.

Always keen for a challenge, I agreed and since then have climbed the equivalent of Mt Everest every year.

That year 50 took part. Last year more than 2000 people walked the walk, making it one of Gisborne’s largest sporting events.

Monday is the start of the seventh Titirangi Mt Everest Challenge and I am writing this column to encourage people to take part.

Started by Sean and Fiona Shivnan of Sean Shivnan Pharmacy after they saw the potential of an event on our maunga (mountain) Titirangi/Kaiti Hill, it is a free event that runs for seven weeks.

Sport Gisborne Tairawhiti now partner with Sean and Fiona to support and manage the event.

People can register as individuals or as a team. Every time they climb to the top, they register it online and eventually can make it to the equivalent height of Mount Everest.

Back in that first year we each had a piece of paper on the noticeboard and every day ticked off a box and shared with each other where we had reached.

The value I get out of it is immense.

Over winter I tend to hibernate and with the shorter days, find it difficult to find time to do exercise.

This event coincides with the start of spring and the chance to get a fresh start on fitness.

So, if unfit, when you do your first climb, it seems like a bit of a tough ask; unbelievable that you could do it again, let alone 68 times but I assure you that day by day, fitness comes.

And the value for mental health is huge. Exercise is one of the known things that help people feel better about themselves.

Everyone is different, but I decided that to make sure I made it, I needed to do it 10 times a week.

Finding I can get up and down the quickest route in an hour, I aimed for two climbs a day five days a week — that is achievable — and then you can have two well-deserved days off a week.

An extra bonus this year is that the new Homeguard track is by far the quickest way to the top and I am sure it will be well used.

If you are in a team, obviously you won’t need to do it so often, but the more you do it, the better you feel and the fitter and happier you become.

If weight loss is an aim, don’t count on seeing it on the scales — muscle is heavier than fat — but without a doubt if you stick to your timetable and keep up some sort of climbing schedule over the seven weeks, you will tone up and notice it in your clothes.

The work that has been done on Titirangi by the Whaia Titirangi team is nothing short of amazing.

I walked the hill recently with my sister who had not been up there for many years. She was blown away with the native plantings and like most of us very excited about how it will look once everything has grown.

In the past two months I have been climbing the hill as part of my daily routine and I often see the Whaia Titirangi women who have put in hours and hours of effort, and they are always smiling and friendly.

That brings me to another reason to take part in the challenge, for which close to 2200 people and 212 teams registered last year — there is a feeling of camaraderie and everyone says kia ora or waves and smiles as they head up and down.

Sport Gisborne Tairawhiti event coordinator Debbie Hutchings said for many participants, being part of a team is the greatest motivator.

While 68 climbs of Titirangi is required to reach Everest’s summit, many participants climb well beyond this point.

She says she loves to see the community coming together for the event.

“Titirangi is easy to get to and so accessible — there is so much buzz around the event and that motivates people.

“So many amazing stories come out from people taking part. It is really special.”

The free event has a supporting charity if anyone is able to raise money. This will be donated to the Gisborne East Coast Cancer Society to help bowel cancer patients and their families here.

There will be an official opening karakia and walk from Poho-O-Rawiri Marae at 5pm on Monday.

Also, through the Whaia Titirangi project the community will have planting opportunities on Monday 6am-9am and 5pm-7pm. Staff will direct participants wishing to plant.

This is a chance for people to have an even greater connection with the event and the maunga developments.

How cool would this be for people to enjoy the event, plant a tree and each year watch how it grows.

The event ends on November 10.