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“Every marathon teaches you something,” says Kiri Price. She should know. She’s done 100 of them, including 25 in one year. When she crossed the finish line of her 100th marathon recently it was to cheers and tears from her family and running friends all dressed in her favorite color, purple. It was such a heart-swelling finish, Frances Morton sat down with 47-year-old running coach from Auckland to find out her top 10 marathon lessons.
- Everyone runs for a reason: “I did my first marathon in 1997 when I was 29. I’d had three miscarriages. When that happens you feel like you can’t start something and complete it. You lose a lot of self-confidence. I had to focus on something I could achieve. It was amazing. I felt like I could walk on water for six weeks afterwards. I did it in three hours 54 minutes. I didn’t do one for six more years because I had three children after that.”
- You can’t fluke a marathon: “One per cent of the population do marathons. It pushes you. Pretty much anyone can do a half-marathon but it takes something special to do a marathon. A marathon deserves respect. I think that’s what makes it so special. Every time I cross that finish line it’s like YES.”
- It’s not about how fast you go: “My first 50 marathons were all for me. I did 44 sub-four marathons. The next 50 I’ve helped people or run with friends.”
- The longer you’re out there, the harder it is: “The first time I did a five-hour marathon – oh my god that was so hard. It was in New York 2012 when the marathon was cancelled [due to Hurricane Sandy] and they had the Run Anyway Marathon in Central Park. I was really disappointed. On the day I was running with a friend. He said, “How far are you going to go?” I said, “I came to do a marathon so I’m going to do one.” He said, “Me too.” I said, “Are you sure? You were pissed as a fart last night and I haven’t strapped your feet.” (He had plantar fasciitis.) He said, “I want to do it.” I said, “Ok, slow down.” So I paced him. I said, “I’ll stay with you.”
- When someone says you can’t do something, find a way: “I got injured just before my 50th I had an undiagnosed stress fracture in my ankle that I had done about 15 marathons on without knowing. When I went to the sports doctor he said “Well, that’s the end of your running career.” If someone tells me that I can’t do anything it just fires me up more to do it. Deep water running saved me. It’s the most specific thing to running you can do. It uses the same muscles through the same range of motion without the impact loading. I was depressed for about three months, then I got angry. I started running in the pool then I started some of my runners in the pool. Now I take regular sessions.”
- Running alone is not enough: “You need to do strength work and cross training. My cross training involves kayaking. I go to the gym twice a week. Running will make you strong but if you make your body strong for running it will perform better and handle the stress better.”
- Women actually get stronger as they get older: “I am always impressed how fast the masters women go. I don’t know whether they have more of a base, more focus, more time to train. When I jumped up to next age group the competition got harder. Now I’m in the 45-49 age group and the standard of running is amazing.”
- Visualize your whole day: “My fastest marathon was my 27th but my best one was my 43rd, that’s when everything came into alignment. I thought, “I want three Ps. I want place, prize and a personal best on this course.” I got all three. I got 3:32:15. I saw myself doing it and achieved it. Go through the whole day in your head that week before. See yourself having breakfast. See yourself getting dressed. See yourself getting to the start line. See yourself running through those first 5kms. See yourself running well. See yourself finishing. If you’ve got all that in your head you can just get up and run.”
- Set three goals for race day but keep two of them secret: “Two or three weeks out when you know how your training has gone, set three goals. Set one goal that you would be ecstatic about and it’s got to be realistic. Say your goal is to be to run sub four hours. Then set your goal something you’d be happy with, say it’s 4:30. And your third goal is what you can live with – finishing, or five hours or whatever. Only tell people your goal number three because otherwise they will put so many expectations on you.”
- Always set your next goal before you finish your last one: “I’ve got a new goal. I’m keeping it quiet so my husband doesn’t get upset. The thing is to always set your next goal before you finish your last one because otherwise it’s a bit like Christmas. You have one of those big hairy audacious goals then it’s like the day after Christmas when everything goes quiet. I’m already on to my next thing. I’ve got New York with Achilles. I’m guiding Tamati Pearse, he’s blind, and Ben Thompson, his guide. It’s the first marathon for both of them.”