‘Be the best you can be’ isn’t just a marketing slogan for AUT Millennium. It is something embodied in the people who work here, both professionally and personally. A shining example of this is Facility Assistant Stephen Jenkins, who hasn’t looked back after picking up running two years ago.
Stephen recently ran a new half marathon personal best in Melbourne. His time of 2 hours 2 mins shaved four minutes off his previous best, which was only recorded in June. It seems that each time Stephen laces up for a race, he’s improving.
Stephen was encouraged by Kiri Price to join the Achilles New Zealand group which holds fortnightly training sessions around the Auckland area, including on the AUT Millennium track. Kiri, who has run over 150 marathons and coaches the AUT Millennium running group, has worked with Achilles for many years. She has coached and guided runners through marathons locally and internationally. “I remember Stephen first coming along to the Achilles training sessions, and his first few runs,” Kiri recalls. “To say he’s improved in leaps and bounds is an understatement of mammoth proportions! Since Stephen started his running journey, he’s lost weight, he’s met amazing people, and completed 10ks, half marathons and full marathons,” Kiri tells. “His posture has improved, he carries himself proudly, and he walks with his head held high.”
“It was a bit of a shock when I first started running,” Stephen laughs. “I’d never done it before. My good friend Tamati was in the Achilles group as well, and he had already done the New York Marathon, and I wanted to do it too.” His first major event was the Auckland Half Marathon, and after a few more halves, his focus turned to New York for the full 42kms. “It was pretty scary, there’s a lot of people who do the race!” Stephen says. He competed as part of a group of Achilles athletes from all over the country. “It was really amazing,” he recalls. “The course goes through the five boroughs and finishes in Central Park. Running is definitely a good way to see a city!”
Having worked at AUT Millennium since 2013, Stephen is responsible for the presentation of the AUT Millennium Sports Hall and PowerZone, and helps with events and grounds keeping around the facility. He is known for his positivity and willingness to lend a hand in any area. Operations Manager Chris Olney has seen a big change in Stephen since he started running. “Since joining Achilles and running, Stephen’s gained a lot more confidence,” Chris says. “He’s more confident socially, has made more friends, and interacts with our staff and members more. Most of all, it’s great to see Stephen smiling and laughing.” Chris is always keen to hear how Stephen’s events have gone and isn’t surprised at his improvements. “He’s very self-motivated and driven by the power of sporting success.”
Kiri compliments Stephen’s commitment to his running. “He is completely dedicated to his training,” she says. “He has a team of people who he runs with during the week and at weekends, all over Auckland. All that work is reflected in his achievements and how far he’s come.”
Stephen has big goals for his running. “I’m going to do the New York Marathon again this year, and I’m going to do Gold Coast next year.” If his recent form is anything to go by, Stephen will be knocking out even more PBs!
*Achilles NZ is a charity that enables New Zealanders with any disability to participate in mainstream running events. Volunteer guides support athletes to achieve their personal goals. Fortnightly training sessions are held in most main centres around New Zealand. www.achillesnewzealand.org