How Paora Raharaha went from running into trouble to running ultramarathons is the stuff movies are made of.
After two stints in prison, running kept him from falling back into life as a Black Power gang member, helped him realise he needed to be a father to his daughter and gave him a platform to transform other lives.
Raharaha told 1 NEWS when he runs he never looks back but he’s learned from each step he’s taken.
“I’m not really afraid to share my past. It is what it is and it’s who I am as a person,” he said.
“I wasn’t really afraid of the police. Just ending up in a police cell all the time, all the guns and that, drug dealing, burglaries.
“I was just real negative in my head. I was angry because I was in pain.”
On the surface, people saw an amazing runner who made headlines last week after he finished the Tarawera Ultramarathon in gumboots while raising $12,000 for kids in Huntly, but the real marathon has been a five-year journey that saved his life.
After getting caught for aggravated robbery and aggravated assault, records show Raharaha has been locked up twice for a total of five years.
What it doesn’t show, though, is that his behaviour stemmed from the pain of losing his brother to alcohol poisoning.
He wanted someone to blame and, in his words, he wanted someone to kill.
“When I got out of prison, I just had to forgive and let go,” Raharaha said.
“And that’s one of the biggest things that I had ever accomplished, I believe, in my life because if you look around, most adults are living with a lot of stuff within their hearts that I believe if they can forgive and let go, they’ll be able to lead a more prosperous life.”
Once he was free, Raharaha became probably the busiest man in Paeroa, earning five different qualifications, starting his own business, training youth and doing public speaking alongside the likes of former New Zealander of the Year Mike King.
On the side from all of that was his newfound passion for running, which started with a half-marathon and led to ultramartathons, taking him to places he’d never dreamed of as he took each step.That included the gruelling challenge he gave himself in Tarawera.
“I was like, ‘Dad, I’m gonna do this hundred-miler in gumboots and I’m gonna do burpees along the way,’” Raharaha recalled.
His mum, Hine Ngatai, said they backed him from the moment he said it.
“We were there through his good times and his bad times,” she said.
“My son wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing today if it wasn’t for that support.”
And it wasn’t just a second chance for him, but also his daughter.
“I went to prison when she was one,” Raharaha said.
“I missed her second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth birthday in a row.”
It took Raharaha a long while to catch up to that daughter we was always chasing and be a dad right by her side, but now it’s the two of them looking forward.
And they’re never looking back.