You can’t keep an injured runner down.

Kiri (front) and Sandi before clocking up some more laps in the pool.

When Kiri Price, AUT Millennium’s resident running coach and Deep Water Running instructor, fell during an off-road marathon, she initially didn’t think much of it. She completed the race, and even another two marathons. However, after a few medical visits and scans, she was diagnosed with an impaction fracture of the femur, a meniscus tear, and bone bruising.

The rehabilitation plan called for 14 weeks of no running or walking, but deep water running was recommended. Kiri was determined to keep moving. She switched her shoes for Speedos and jumped in the pool, aiming to complete 42kms (844 x 50m lengths) in the pool before her next scan. She knew it would be a long slog, with distances in the pool taking up to ten times as long as road running at a steady ‘marathon effort’. It would be hours and hours of plodding up and down the pool, alone.

Enter Sandi Wooldridge. She and Kiri go back a few years, both having acted as guide runners for Achilles NZ, including completing the 2015 New York City Marathon together. With a similar inability to stay still, Sandi was struggling with her own injuries restricting her running. “I’ve had Achilles issues for years, and I’ve had physio on it,” she shares. “I was given orthotics to help, but they ended up upsetting the plantar on the other foot. I’ve had a cortisone injection, which worked well, but has worn off now. I was running through all that, and consequently developed Achilles tendonosis on my other foot. I also sprained my ankle in December, which didn’t help matters!”

Aside from running, Kiri and Sandi also share a love for a challenge. By pure coincidence, Sandi happened to come to the pool one day while Kiri was clocking up some laps, and learned of her goal. “I thought it was really cool,” she tells. “I’m one of those people that when I’ve got a goal, I’m really motivated. I took a moment to think ‘it’s a really big thing to do’, but then committed – I’m that kind of nutter as well!”

To prove that point, as we chat to the pair, they agree on an even bigger goal than first planned. In the space of a minute, one marathon – 42.2kms – turned into 50km, and then, with a little bit of maths, they’d committed to 100km before Kiri’s next scan in early June. “Marathons just stay with you, it’s something you always want to keep doing,” says Kiri. “The pace we were going at, we realised we were going to tick of 42km really quickly, so 100kms, let’s go!” They’ve even planned to jump in on the day of the Rotorua Marathon to put in the same amount of time they would’ve been running on the day.

The benefits of Deep Water Running

Kiri has long been a believer in the value of water running. A previous injury a number of years ago sparked her inspiration for developing AUT Millennium’s popular Deep Water Running programme. The classes are full of different people with different needs – injured athletes, older people looking for low-impact exercise, Everyday Champions who enjoy variety in their routine, and women who are pre- or post-natal. There’s added benefits for those with injuries. “In deep water, the hydrostatic pressure increases blood flow by 30%, which helps get blood to injured areas and flush out waste products,” Kiri says. “It helps you maintain your fitness if you’re injured and unable to do your usual training, and mentally it helps you feel better by giving you a goal and a challenge.”

She and Sandi have been noticing the benefits themselves. “We’ve started to notice a lot of physiological changes,” Kiri says. “We’re quicker through the water now, we’re stronger and faster!” For Sandi, there’s been two big markers. She’s faster through the water, now able to clock up 20 laps in an hour. And don’t tell her physio, but she completed a run series event a few weeks ago, and noticed that her fitness hadn’t deteriorated at all. Kiri’s quick to point out that their deep water workouts are part of an overall plan that also includes cycling and strength work.

There’s also been a cast of supporting characters in the pool alongside them. Word of the challenge has spread throughout Kiri’s Running Group and Deep Water Running classes, and many people have joined her and Sandi for a few laps. It’s helped with the motivation and to ward off any potential monotony of solo sessions. “When you’re injured, it can be easy to get into a downward spiral, and then it’s easy to lose your fitness,” Kiri says. “Having people interested in our progress and wanting to join us makes it easier to keep going and keeps us mentally sane!”

While work commitments mean they can’t do every lap together, Sandi and Kiri have made a promise – they’ll achieve the milestones together. At the time of writing, the pair had completed over 50km (1000 x 50m laps) in the National Aquatic Centre – on the homeward stretch now!

Keep an eye on the AUT Millennium social media accounts to follow their progress, and if you see them in the pool, be sure to give them a high five and plenty of encouragement!

For more about our Deep Water Running classes, visit:

Previous articleHead Girl leading the way
Next articleHow long is too long off training?
Heather is our Communications Manager here at AUT Millennium. With a BA/BCom from the University of Auckland and postgraduate qualification in communications, Heather honed her copywriting skills in the recruitment and tertiary industries. As a storyteller, she loves to share the inspirational stories of the AUT Millennium community. Her mood will greatly depend on the current (mis)fortunes of the BlackCaps and Warriors. [email protected]