60-year-old on cusp of marathon record
Michael Stewart, 60, who on Sunday will lace up his shoes to run his 500th marathon, says "I'm just doing what my heart loves me to do".
He'll be pounding the 42.19km course out and back from Pinehaven that he and the late Ian Priest devised. It will be 42 years to the day since he ran his first marathon, the Wellington Olympic Harrier event in 1970.
Running with him will be plenty of members of the growing New Zealand "100 Club" (people who have completed 100 or more marathons) - a good number his Hutt Valley Marathon Clinic and Aurora Harrier Club friends.
Michael is known for his outrageously colourful running gear, so chances are a good number of them will be following his chosen theme of wearing pink.
He wears bright colours because "deep inside me, I feel lifted up by them".
Even the rubbish truck he drives for a living is dubbed "Rainbow Ray" and is painted accordingly.
"We need a bit of colour out there in the world, don't we? There's too much darkness."
By his standards, Michael was a slow starter.
After that first marathon in 1970, during the next seven years he did only five more.
"Girlfriends", he says by way of explanation.
But after marrying, the running bug bit hard again.
He remembers reading in a US magazine about a guy who had reached his 100th marathon.
"I thought, 'that's something I could do - it'll keep me occupied'."
He just forgot to stop at 100.
Five hundred marathons will be a southern hemisphere record.
David Penfold from Feilding is due to do his 250th in December and across the Tasman an Aussie has racked up around 310.
"But I heard he's going into retirement," Michael says.
"You can't beat the Kiwis!"
For Michael, it was never about fast times. His buzz was that sense of achievement when he crossing the finish line.
For a year or two, as he battled injuries and corns, he would walk the courses.
He says if he'd done what a lot of people who run marathons do, and gone hard for fast times, "How long will your body hold together with that?".
"Some people used to say to me, 'what are you doing all these marathons for? Train hard and do a good one!'
"All the ones who said that were busting their guts to do good times . . . and they ain't around now."
Michael, a vegan, an enthusiast for organic produce and a believer in the "harmony of yin and yan", is inspired by the long-living Hunza people of the Himalayas.
He wants to stay close to nature and still be competing marathons when he "cracks 100 years old".
One of those who will be there on Sunday to cheer Michael across the finish line is his father, now 84. Although he never ran a marathon, Michael says his dad took him to harriers when he was a lad and has been a supporter "in his own way".