Ultra marathon man addicted to running
Wellington athlete Alex McKenzie just can't stop running.
McKenzie, a New Zealand army staff sergeant, has recently returned from the ultra running world championship in Poland and is preparing for a 300km charity run next month.
The 51-year-old is a brother of Meda McKenzie, the long-distance swimmer who conquered Cook Strait when she was just 15.
Alex McKenzie said the attraction to long-distance sports must run in his family.
"It must be in our genes; there's something there that makes us want to keep going and going," he said.
Ever since I started [ultra distance] running I just can't stop."
McKenzie began running more than seven years ago to help relieve stress in his life.
"I began to really enjoy it and got involved in the marathon. I thought the marathon was the biggest, greatest event you can do, but found it just wasn't for me.
"I decided I'd have a crack at running a bit further and I ended up doing ultra running," he said.
McKenzie began with a 60km race at Ninety Mile Beach.
Soon after he competed in the national ultra running championship, covering more than 160km and finishing second.
"At the time I didn't think it was humanly possible to run that far," McKenzie said.
He went on to win the national championship and be chosen for the first two Commonwealth ultra distance championships.
In his second crack at the event, McKenzie and a team of three others finished third.
Most recently McKenzie ran 212km in the ultra distance world championship in Poland, finishing 54th of 250 starters.
He not only takes part in competitive races, but also goes the extra mile for various charities and organisations.
In 2009 he ran for 24 hours on a treadmill and helped raise more than $5000 for the KidsCan charity.
He has also completed several Relay for Life events and ran for more than 30 hours at a charity event on Norfolk Island.
McKenzie is a big supporter of the charity Canteen, partly because his nephew has been diagnosed with lymphoma cancer.
His desire to help children stems from his experiences overseas with the army, when he saw so much child poverty.
"If people said to me, 'You can go to the Commonwealth races or do a run for charity', I would do the run for the charity," he said.
"It's the best gift of all - being able to use your talents to help others.
McKenzie will race from Auckland to Tauranga on November 23, his first attempt to run 300km.
His training will include running a minimum of three times a day and weight training, as well as the work he does at the army base in Trentham.