Times don’t mean anything; it’s just about finishing — 569 times

Michael Stewart never tires of a marathon — even though he has run more than 500 of them.

Stewart (66) made what has been an annual pilgrimage since 1987 to run in the Dunedin Marathon. He returned to the city on Friday to run what was, incredibly, his 569th marathon yesterday. Adding what he said was another one to the total, he completed the revamped course in 5hr 34min 40sec.

The retired "garbologist" from Upper Hutt well remembers running his first marathon, the Olympic Handicap Marathon around Evans Bay, Wellington, on November 28, 1970, as an 18-year-old.

"You were suppose to be a senior in those days. I wasn’t quite a senior. The guy who entered me put my age up for me," he said.

"It cost 50c. That was a lot of money in those days, though."

Although unaware of how it compared with entry fees these days, Stewart said it had been taken care of through a sponsorship arrangement through Doug Fargher at Silverstream Pharmacy, in Upper Hutt, since the early 1990s.

Although age has slowed the legs somewhat, Stewart’s personal best time for the marathon is 2hr 59min 7sec, clocked in the Hastings event in 1988.Stewart said he did not really have a marathon he could single out as a particular favourite.

"One rolls into another. You just do them. I don’t really think about it any more. It’s gone past that stage."

As for targets, Stewart said he just "sees what’s happening, and how the body’s coping".

In 1995, after completing his 200th marathon, he went to an iridologist, who told him there were indications of stress in his legs and advised him to reduce the number of marathons he was doing.

"I don’t think I took too much notice of all of that."

All but two of Stewart’s marathons have been run in New Zealand. His two outside New Zealand were the Gold Coast event twice, while visiting a brother, one of seven other siblings.

"I’m happy doing what I’m doing. It’s just my life.

"It’s just something I enjoy doing. Times and everything don’t mean anything. It’s just to say I’ve crossed the finish line. What else matters?"

Stewart is eyeing a further four marathons before the end of the year: the Masterton Marathon (October 14), Auckland Marathon (October 28), a new event organised by the Hutt Valley Marathon Clinic in late November, and the Whanganui Three Bridges Marathon on December 8.

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