Fiji’s Iron Man Petero Manoa

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Most of us are com­fort­able with set­ting our­selves mod­est fit­ness goals each year. If we get to the rea­son­ably gym reg­u­larly we’ll be happy. If we get out for reg­u­lar walks along the sea­wall we’ll post self­ies with our friends. It’s April and Petero is about to take on the chal­lenge of run­ning 200km across Viti Levu as part of the Voda­fone Lost Is­land Ul­tra. What makes this feat even more in­cred­i­ble is that this isn’t the only en­durance event mile­stone he’ll have com­pleted this year. In March he be­came Fiji’s first Iron Man, com­plet­ing a 3.8km swim, a 180km cy­cle and a 42.2km run in 13 hours. Ap­par­ently that wasn’t enough for him for 2018! I first met Petero a few years ago when he was help­ing the Suva Marathon Club with lead cy­clists at the event. My style of event man­age­ment sup­port is some­what loud. When the club bought a mega­phone it was re­marked that cer­tain mem­bers of the com­mit­tee prob­a­bly wouldn’t need it.Petero is the pre­cise op­po­site. Calm, col­lected, al­ways smil­ing and a nat­u­ral at putting any­one at ease within a few min­utes of meet­ing him. How­did this gentle­man of en­durance events re­alise he had a gift for dis­tances that most of us would break into a sweat just think­ing about. Born and raised in Nakavika, Macu­ata he would of­ten be bring­ing up the rear during the 100m sprint events at school. He played rugby but didn’t have the speed for it. “As a teenager, I started run­ning 5000m and 10000m events and sud­denly found my­self out in front.” He even­tu­ally found his call­ing, not with one sport but three– en­durance dis­ci­plines of swim­ming, cycling and run­ning that the triathlon com­bines.“I found I had the stamina to eas­ily switch be­tween events and my body seems to be able to cope with go­ing from the swim to the cy­cle to the run in a way that oth­ers some­times find dif­fi­cult.”Petero has just got back from New Zealand af­ter be­com­ing the first Fi­jian to com­plete the mother-of-all triathlons – an Iron Man.

For some­one that likes to talk about marathons but has never ac­tu­ally done one, the thought of run­ning a marathon is a daunt­ing one. The thought of run­ning a marathon af­ter swim­ming for an hour and cycling for seven hours is in­com­pre­hen­si­ble. Petero was up to it:“It was a dream come true to com­plete an Iron Man. My mo­ti­va­tion was re­ally per­sonal de­ter­mi­na­tion to see how much your body can do.”But it must have been painful right? “Think­ing about it was the worst part. The ac­tual event – the phys­i­cal part – that was the best!”Still try­ing to find some part of that Petero didn’t en­joy we moved on to the re­cov­ery. “It took about a week of com­plete rest to re­cover. All of the power in my body had gone. The most I could do was go for long power walks.” (The most some peo­ple can do nor­mally is go for long power walks.)Not con­tent with just push­ing him­self, he is also com­mit­ted to help­ing oth­ers reach their fit­ness po­ten­tial. About eigh­teen months ago he part­nered with oth­ers in Suva to es­tab­lish the Burn­ing Rock Tri­cy­cling Club. “My main mo­ti­va­tion was to in­spire more lo­cals to take part in swim­ming, cycling and run­ning. To eat healthy and to live healthy. In Fiji, it is of­ten rugby, but there are other sports you can get in­volved with too. We’ve got more peo­ple com­ing to our reg­u­lar events and our fam­i­lies are all in­volved with the club. Some peo­ple think that when they hit 40 they’re old, but for en­durance events that’s the time that you should be see­ing what your body can re­ally do.” He sees his next chal­lenge, the Voda­fone Lost Is­land Ul­tra, as be­ing a long, tough race. “But I am re­ally re­laxed. I’m ex­cited to meet all the in­ter­na­tional run­ners com­ing in for the event and one of the best parts will be see­ing every­one in the com­mu­ni­ties along the way who hosted us while we were do­ing some of the scop­ing for the event.”We just have to find a way to make sure that he’s al­lowed to get a good night sleep away from the tanoa. Good luck Petero!

Iron on wheels…Petero in com­pe­ti­tion mode.

Voda­fone Lost Is­land Ul­tra com­peti­tors (in Voda­fone T-shirts) Petero (left) and Ana Cow­ley (right).

The iron man shows off his medal from a New Zealand com­pe­ti­tion.

Petero at a Vodafione Lost Is­land Ul­tra event, Suva.

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