Fiji’s Iron Man Petero Manoa
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.