Heart Racer runs her heart out in husband’s memory

In 2008, when Cherie Te Rore’s beloved husband Te Ohomauri Brown (Oho), died of a heart attack aged 50, she began to run.

“It sounds a bit weird but I just started running, a bit like Forrest Gump in the movie. That was my way of dealing with it,” explains Cherie, sitting under one of art-teacher Oho’s sculptures, on what would have been his 59th birthday.

“I found I couldn’t run if I was stressed, so I would tell myself, ‘Go as slowly as you can’ then all the stress would melt away.”

Today, she has her sights set on a half marathon to raise funds for the Heart Foundation in his memory. She will travel from her hometown of Gisborne to run across the Auckland Harbour Bridge in the Barfoot and Thompson Half Marathon this October.

However, two years before Oho died Cherie was unable to comfortably walk just a few kilometres, let alone run 21.1km in a half marathon.

“While out walking I would get lapped by little old ladies.”

Weighing in at 97kg, she was in constant pain from an arthritic condition called fibromyalgia syndrome and chronic fatigue, and was becoming increasingly immobile.

“I was really unwell. I couldn’t sleep properly, I didn’t eat properly, I couldn’t do anything.”

Oho was also overweight and struggled with the continual challenges of heart damage from childhood rheumatic fever and diabetes complications.

They decided it was time to “get well” together and made significant lifestyle changes.

Cherie took up regular walking and focused on healthy eating, making sure she took food everywhere with her, starting her day with a proper breakfast and “fuelling up properly so I didn’t end up stuck without food and getting ravenous”.

During the next two years she turned her health around, losing 37kg and becoming free of daily pain.

A before and after photo of Cherie

Oho discovered water aerobics, but one morning while getting out of the pool he heard a crack – it was a broken toe – they discovered he had brittle bones from diabetes.

“That was a bit depressing. It was hard for him.”

He was in his best friend’s back yard one Saturday afternoon in November 2008, creating small sculptures, when he suffered a heart attack. An ambulance was called but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Their whānau were particularly shocked by his death as Cherie and Oho hadn’t made a big deal about the severity of ongoing health issues preferring to keep it “low key”.

Cherie says, “he was super-funny, super-clever, super-loyal, just a really popular man actually, everybody loved him to bits.”

As a tutor for the Eastern Institute of Technology’s National Certificate in Health and Wellbeing, her professional life now aligns with her personal lifestyle changes. She particularly enjoys teaching students about the importance of self-care alongside the care of others – something she says she didn’t learn until later in life.

Crossing the finish line in October will be a “privilege” in her eyes.

“This event is my subtle way of standing up and gently saying, ‘you can do anything if you want to, you can heal yourself through change.’”

Support Cherie in her run