About 30 Western Bay supporters fell in step with Wanaka plumber Jup Brown as he passed through Mount Maunganui yesterday, well on his way to running the length of New Zealand.
The 38-year-old Wanaka man began pounding the countryside at Stewart Island on September 1 in a bid to raise funds and awareness for the Stroke Foundation of New Zealand.
On a stunning spring evening yesterday his largest group of supporters to date laced up their running shoes and at 6pm enjoyed a 5km fun run from Moa Park to the Mount Maunganui Surf Life Saving Club at the base of Mauao.
Organised by Tauranga business Craig Investment Partners, runners paid a $10 entry fee with the full amount going to the Stroke Foundation before enjoying a free BBQ at Mount Main Beach hosted by Craigs.
Having run 47km from a point north of Rotorua, Mr Brown arrived in Tauranga about 3pm yesterday and relaxed at the Sebel Trinity Hotel, which put him up for the night, before heading to the fun run.
"I really enjoyed that little 5k there, to have that many people turn up is awesome.
"Yesterday was one of my better days actually, I probably ran the best I've run the whole time."
Enjoying a rest day in Tauranga today, Mr Brown plans to offer his services to the oil spill clean-up for an hour or so. "Other than that, just get a massage and relax," he said. Mr Brown was inspired to take on the challenge by his mate and stroke survivor Nick Chisholm, who he describes as, "an absolute legend".
A rugby accident in 2000 resulted in Mr Chisolm experiencing a series of brain stem strokes, leading to locked-in syndrome which made him unable to walk or talk. After witnessing what Mr Chisholm, who featured on current affairs show 20/20, has accomplished through rehabilitation, Mr Brown is aiming to raise as much money as possible for the Stroke Foundation, so more stroke survivors can access a gym and rehabilitation services.
Running an average of 50km six days a week, he is on schedule to cover the 2800 to 2900 km journey in 10 weeks, finishing in Auckland on November 6. "I'm looking forward to that day, it will be a lot of emotion on that day I'd say."
Donations to the Stroke Foundation of New Zealand can be made by visiting Jup Brown's website www.runningnz.co.nz or texting STROKE to 5339 to make a $3 donation.