6,300km. That’s more than three times the length of New Zealand. If Kiri Price could run on water as well as land, she could run from Auckland to Perth, on the far west coast of Australia, and still have some miles left. Recently, Kiri celebrated running her 150th marathon. Not including the years she took off to have her children, over a period of 15 years Kiri has racked up 6,300 marathon kilometres.

This wasn’t just an individual celebration, however. Kiri and a group of close running friends conspired to make the 2018 Rotorua Marathon the setting for their combined milestones. Collectively, the five of them have run 1000 marathons (which is 42,000km, enough run around the world and then some!), and one of the group, Charlotte Nasey (an AUT Millennium Gym member) completed her 200th marathon. To mark the occasion, Charlotte had a special set of matching taonga necklaces created for the group, all made from the same stone.

While the significance of the achievement was still sinking in for her, Kiri definitely acknowledged it wasn’t just another marathon. She speaks of the day with enthusiasm and reverence, and the word ‘special’ is mentioned continuously. Kiri appreciated the opportunity to have her running friends and family members celebrate the moment with her at a special function after the event. Three of the group run for the Auckland YMCA Marathon Club in Auckland, so having a celebration at the Rotorua YMCA seemed a fitting way to thank the club, their friends and families for supporting them through the training for multiple events each year.

Despite being a significant personal occasion, Kiri was supporting other runners. As a pacer, she had the very important role of leading a group around the course aiming to finish in 5 hours, 15 minutes. “There’s a lot of pressure on you,” she explains. “If you muck up, you’re mucking up everyone’s race. You are running within yourself, and you want to be steady throughout the course. You need to control everyone, and not allow them to surge. There’s a lot riding on it.” Kiri’s group had nothing to worry about. With such an experienced runner leading them, someone who has paced 45 marathons, they came in on target at all key markers, and finished in 5 hours, 14 minutes and 43 seconds.

As a pacer, it is Kiri’s job to keep her runners motivated and see them through to the finish line. She had strategies to get her group through the day, including knowing when the food, drink and toilet stops were coming, and a special trick to make those last 10km easier. “To keep them focused towards the end, we each nominated a person we were running that particular kilometre for,” she tells. “It was nice to hear everyone’s motivations and inspirations, and it takes people’s mind off the hurt.” Most importantly, Kiri had them all run the last kilometre for themselves. “There are people out there for all sorts of reasons,” she says, “but it’s important to recognise their individual achievement as well.”

Kiri Price (second from left) running as pacer during her 150th marathon in Rotorua.
Kiri Price (second from left) running as pacer during her 150th marathon in Rotorua.

As a seasoned runner and qualified running coach, Kiri has some time-tested advice for those wanting to take running seriously. “If you’re wanting to go from half marathons to full, it’s not just double the distance,” she tells. “It’s exponentially different. You can fluke a half, but you have to respect the marathon distance.” Her advice is to prepare well, and clock up plenty of training miles, in order to understand how quickly you recover, and your likelihood of injury.

For people considering their first marathon, she recommends following a training plan. “Stick with your plan, and look at the whole picture – strength work, recovery, nutrition. Find an event which inspires you, and then you’ll be motivated to train,” she advises. Building up an aerobic base, and not doing too much too soon, keeps runners comfortable and away from injury. It’s also important to run your own race, she adds. “Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. At the end of the day, everyone is covering the same miles!”

Kiri is the coach of the AUT Millennium Deep Water Running classes, an activity she swears by for her own recovery – she was in the pool the Monday following her milestone marathon. She also takes the Community Running Group every Monday and Wednesday morning, sessions which are open for casual attendance as well as to AUT Millennium Gym members. In fact, four of the group joined Kiri in running Rotorua. “Running is such a community,” she says, “and having our AUT Millennium group all there – Tim, Sandy, Denise, Barbara, Jess, Julie, Neil, Edie, Ann, Michael and Allan – just added to the special occasion.”

Rotorua was Kiri’s first marathon, which is why she wanted to celebrate her milestone there. She’ll be back again next year, which will be her 15th Rotorua Marathon. “I’ll become a ‘Survivor’ next year,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to that.”