Article by Rachel Grunwell: Official blogger for the Rotorua Marathon. Rachel is a marathoner, Good magazine’s wellness columnist + smoothie chick & yoga teacher . Follow her via Inspired Health’s Facebook & Instagram for inspo, recipes & giveaways.

Greg and Donna Rieger – the parents of a teenager lifesaver who drowned a year ago plan to conquer 12 half-marathons in his memory. And the Rotorua Marathon event is at the top of their list for a special reason.

Hamish Rieger, aged 17, was tragically swept off the rocks near the blowhole at Moturiki (Leisure) Island in the Bay of Plenty on January 23.

Greg and Donna will celebrate Hamish’s life, and his thirst for adventure, by doing 12 half-marathons – so that’s 252km in total (and that doesn’t even count all those training miles!) They hope to raise $12,000 – $1000 for each 21km event – to fund a Spirt of Adventure scholarship fund for Mount Maunganui teenagers.

Greg says they chose the Spirit of Adventure as the recipient of their fundraising efforts because Hamish’s experience of doing this in 2015 inspired the teenager to go on a fitness-kick and to chase his ambitions to a higher level.

They hope that the donations help some other local teenagers to have that same wonderful opportunity.

Greg says how The Spirit of Adventure helped Hamish:

“He was always the kid who embraced life but he came back from the Spirit of Adventure more mature, with his heart opened, and a commitment to living life to the full every day… For that, we are forever grateful and want to give kids from his community the chance to have the same life-changing experience,” says Greg.


Pic of Hamish supplied by Jamie Troughton.

Margi Mellsop, from The Spirit of Adventure Trust, says Greg and Donna’s 12-half-marathon mission is “so inspiring” and she is so grateful the fundraising will go to The Spirit of Adventure Trust.

“We are so moved by Greg and his family’s commitment to celebrate the life of Hamish in this way. Their efforts will ensure that Hamish’s spirit of adventure will be passed to other Mount Manganui teens . What an incredible legacy they are creating,” she says.

Greg says they are yet to pinpoint all the events they will do. But the Rotorua half-marathon on May 6 is at the top of their list. It is special to him and Donna because Hamish had entered it this year, but he died before he could run it.

Instead, Greg and Donna completed that dream for Hamish in 2016, walking hand-in-hand, and shedding more tears than sweat on that journey. They did this event quietly, without media attention, as they were so grief-stricken at that time.

Greg says he barely noticed the pain of blisters and all those tough miles. His focus was instead on Hamish through every mile.

“By the end of that event my eyes were streaming,” says Greg.

Next year, Greg and Donna will repeat Hamish’s goal again. But this time, their steps will mean even more because of the public fundraiser.

Greg has already started training for the Rotorua half-marathon. He plans to run this, while Donna plans to walk. Hamish’s siblings Oliver, 22, Fergus, 20, and Eliza-Jane,15 and up to 40 family members and friends have pledged to join them too at the Rotorua Marathon event, all wearing ‘I Ride with Hame’ printed asics t-shirts.

Greg, 53, says he can’t wait to be lining up at the start-line at Rotorua’s Government Gardens for the event.

“I’m absolutely fizzing and so looking forward to doing this,” says Greg.

Greg says he has been overwhelmed with support since a story appeared in the Sunday Star-Times about the fundraiser. Three people contacted him immediately to say they wish to donate and a physio in Tauranga has also pledged to help keep Greg in good shape during the journey.

Greg has also been contacted by a surf club member to say they wish to recruit lifeguards from about three  clubs to participate in the Rotorua Marathon event – to give their support to the family.

“I’ve been blown away by the support, totally blown away. I’m pretty stoked,” says Greg.

Greg says Hamish would be proud of the fundraiser. The teenager gave back a lot to his community as a member of the Mount Maunganui lifeguard service, which the Riegers continue to be proudly involved with.

Meanwhile, the Papamoa-based dad says milestones that Hamish misses hurt the most.

This month, Greg and Donna were invited to attend the Mount Maunganui College’s 2016 graduation ceremony to accept Hamish’s graduation certificate. Greg says it was tough not seeing his son graduate, but he was incredibly honoured to  get the certificate and said it was an “emotional experience and one I will always cherish”.

The parents are expecting the milestone of January 23 to be tough too. But doing the fundraiser for Hamish’s memory will help them move through their pain and celebrate their treasured boy’s life.

  • Please support the ‘I Ride With Hame’ fundraiser with a donation: ASB 12-3011-0461607-52
  • You can enter the Rotorua Marathon event by clicking here

– An earlier version of this story was published in the Sunday Star Times & the website by Rachel Grunwell.


Top pic of Greg and Donna was supplied by