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Fear of Water Distant Memory For Tu Marae Participant

Media Statement

Thursday 28 February 2013

Fear of Water Distant Memory For Tu Marae Participant

Ellen Houkamau was terrified of the water. This was a hurdle as the mother-of-three pursued her dream of becoming a police officer. To pass the New Zealand Police physical appraisal test she had to swim a full length of the Gisborne Olympic Pool. She had trouble even putting her face in.

“I had a fear of the water,” says Ellen, who by her own account also ate rubbish food, and was “too big”. “I was, finally getting a chance to try for the police but was 89kg, couldn’t run, and couldn’t swim. So Ellen grabbed life by the scruff of the neck and gave it a good shake.

“That was my changing point. I had always wanted to be a policewoman but I knew I had to get help if I wanted to pass the tests. I had to lose weight and I had to get in that pool.” So she did!

Unafraid to ask for help Ellen organised four months of swim lessons at Gisborne Olympic Pool. She asked a friend for help with food choices and menu; and sought guidance from her school-aged daughter on walking and running.

That was four years ago. Now Ellen will happily knock off a 2km ocean swim, she bikes to work, rarely eats takeaways, and loves her new found energy and fit strong body. “If I can do it others can,” says the inspirational Ngati Porou 45-year-old.

Ellen’s journey to good health will see her at this year’s Turanga Health Tu Marae Duathlon in a team with husband Richard Houkamau.

He has supported her new-found zest for life but until now has only ever held the drink bottle. “I will do the run, he will do the bike, and hopefully next year he will do the whole thing himself,” says Ellen.

The Tu Marae duathlon series is in its second year with the first event this Sunday 3 March starting at Mangatu Marae, Te Whiwhi St, Whatatutu. As well as being a fun healthy day out for young and old it’s a chance to spend time at local Marae.

Over 200 people entered the Whatatutu to Te Karaka duathlon last year says Turanga Health He Oranga Poutama coordinator Stephanie Broughton. “Our Marae are still such a vital part of everyday life so it made sense to us to host the event again and link into places where Maori health and wellbeing are celebrated.”

There are team, individual and tamariki events. The team event is a 7.5km cycle, 4.7km run/walk, 3.5 km cycle, and a 2km run/walk. “Grab whānau members and friends, make up a team, and enter now,” says Stephanie. Information and registration is at, at Turanga Health in Gisborne, or at Waikohu Health Centre, Te Karaka. Race day entries open from 9am.

Ellen will be there. And she encourages all whānau to give it a go. Having never grown up on Marae she loves the idea of whānau reconnecting with their roots as well as having a fun healthy day out. “I looked at myself, looked at what was happening to my whānau, and changed my mind set. That’s where it starts. Change one person’s attitude in a house and you can change everyone.”

Ellen Houkamau


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