This article has been adapted from the original published in Kiwi Trail Runner magazine Oct/Nov 2015 under the title ‘Scaling The Wall’.
Something special is happening in Nelson.
Walking into the Wairua Body Coaching System studio is like walking into a fitness lover’s playground. Pull-up frames protrude from the walls; climbing ropes hang from the ceiling and boxing equipment is staked over head-height. Free weights of all sorts lie around the room – kettle-bells, medicine balls, tyres, giant logs.
A wooden bin in the corner is filled with weights that are broken from use. A large kettle-bell has its handle snapped clean off – the amount of force it would have taken to snap the metal is testament to the effort expenditure that goes on in this gym.
I imagine it filled with bodies, pushing hard and sweating – today it is quiet and I can play on the monkey bars and ropes. Climbing holds are bolted all across the long wall. We struggle to lift a 75kg medicine ball – like lifting a body. A collection of race medals and memorabilia is on display – Spartan Race; Tough Mudder; Obstacle Racers NZ and so on.
But the gym itself is not the special thing happening in Nelson. New Zealand’s first OCR club is based here, with their own facility and semi-permanent outdoor training installation. They deliver a bi-annual event – The Wairua Warrior – summer participant numbers doubled this year with sufficient growth to hold a dedicated elite wave. Despite these laudable efforts, race organiser and studio owner Greg Witika insists: “It’s all about whanau [family]”. Greg and his wife Donna have assembled a group of passionate people behind the Warriors, a people-centric culture that stems from the Witika’s Maori heritage and informs their business and growing OCR community.
‘Wairua’ translates as spirit associated with a person or object: this gym is about more than burning calories mindlessly. It’s about connecting people in life, as was avidly demonstrated at this year’s Wairua Warrior finish line. “For me it’s all about David,” says Jessie, David’s social worker.
A Spirited Lad
44-year-old David Trotter is in a wheelchair after a motorbike accident in 1989 that nearly cost him his life. He was on the side line at the 2015 Wairua Warrior, keenly watching people’s faces as they completed the grueling course and crossed the finish line. At the next event, he wanted to be one of those people.
The Wairua Warriors Club set about raising funds to buy an all-terrain wheelchair and assembled ‘Team David’ who pulled, pushed and hauled David through the obstacle course and across the finish line. David can argue that his whole life is an obstacle course from getting out of bed to tying his shoelaces: completing the event simply endorses his Warrior spirit.