Caption: Bill Richardson, pictured left, is on track to run his 307th marathon when he takes part in the Rotorua Marathon on April 30. He is pictured here running the Wanganui Marathon with friends, Kiri Price, centre, and Graeme Tindall.
By Rachel Grunwell
When South Island school teacher Bill Richardson runs the Rotorua Marathon on April 30 it will be his 307th marathon.
The 64-year-old Invercargill resident has quietly clocked up this amazing feat with his feet and barely told a soul! He prefers to keep his marathon tally on the down-low. It’s just what he loves to do. He thrives on the 42km challenge.
He did celebrate his 300th marathon with close run friends though, with a cake – this was after the Buller Gorge Marathon in February.
His Rotorua Marathon run this year will be a bit of cause for celebration too. It will be his 15th time lapping Lake Rotorua, which means he will enter the ‘Rotorua Marathon Survivors Club’. You have to have completed this event 15 times, or more, to be a club member. There are 514 members in this club at last count in the history of the 52-year-long event.
“It will be as good as gold to be in the club,” he says, chuckling “but I don’t get too carried away by these things.”
Richardson says he loves the Rotorua Marathon event “because it has a bit of town, hills and country”. He also loves the history of the event and the big turn out it attracts. Elite athletes, international runners to everyday runners love it. He’s looking forward to seeing lots of run friends there too. But, of course, he’s honest and admits that the last 10km of the event is always tough! The stretch by the airport is always a challenge. His top tip for running this event is not to run out too fast too soon by the way.
Richardson was born in Owaka, South Otago, and raised in the tiny Central Otago settlement of Omakau. He used to run 4km to school and was always horse-riding, duck-shooting, river swimming, building rafts or fishing. So he has always been an active bloke.
Richardson has two children, Matt and Kate, and five grandchildren. He lives solo. He retired as a social studies and geography teacher at Southland Boys’ High School a few years ago, but still is a relief teacher here.
Richardson started running marathons in 1980. His first was in Invercargill. He has since run most major marathons of the world and repeatedly run a lot of domestic events nationwide.
Some favourite events include Boston (“the premiere marathon in the world” which he has completed nine times – he loves that you have to qualify to enter), the Riverton to Invercargill run (“one of the best” and something he has run more than 30 times) and the Buller Gorge race (“amazing scenery and people”).
He has loved conquering each marathon for “the amazing adventure” and among these incredible adventures includes: the Midnight Sun Marathon above the Arctic Circle in Norway, the Niagara Falls run in Canada and an American run during which competitors cross a border.
He estimates he has spent a cool $150,000 on his passion and he jokes “the rest of my other earnings were wasted”. He has a room full of medals and t-shirts dubbed “the running room”. He reckons one day he will make a duvet out of them all… “one day when I buy a sewing machine chuckle chuckle”…
I quip he could likely make a string of duvets, actually…
His fastest marathon time was 2hr 50mins at Christchurch Marathon in 1997. And yes,’ he will be there again to run this event this year. He can run marathons these days in 3 hours 40 minutes but it’s more about being out on each course for the enjoyment now.
Meanwhile he swears by starting every marathon with porridge including: oats, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, banana and topped with walnuts and almonds.
Besides eating a great breakfast, his biggest advice to any runners out there is “enjoy every race. It’s a lot of fun”.
Good luck on race day! Meanwhile if you see Richardson out there, cheer him on loudly. He’s a bit of a run legend!
His friend Kiri Price, a run coach, says Richardson is only the second person in NZ to achieve the status of running 300 marathons. He is also a proud member of the 100 Marathon Club, of which there are just 44 members. “And he’s the humblest, nicest gentleman out there as well,” says Price.
To enter the Rotorua Marathon (there are four distances from a 5.5km fun run to the full marathon) click here to link through to the Rotorua Marathon website.
Rachel Grunwell is wellbeing columnist for two magazine titles and a string of newspapers throughout NZ. She’s a professional blogger and the director of Inspired Health too. She’ll be running the Rotorua Marathon (her 12th marathon).