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The thrill of the race

Just a few years ago, Leon Malopito hated long-distance running. But in October, he’ll be competing as a Golden Heart Racer in the Auckland Marathon. 

The 34-year-old discovered a passion for running after crossing the finishing line of the Auckland Half Marathon last year.

“Most people I know dread training, but I think it’s been a blast! After seeing the benefits of long runs, it makes me want to keep going,” he says.

“That’s new for me – I used to hate long distance. Last year I did my first half marathon and I honestly didn't know if I could do it. 

“My friend and I trained our butts off leading up to it and it turns out all that training paid off. After all the hard work we put in, it all comes back to you once you cross that finish line. As soon as the race was finished I wanted more!”

As a Golden Heart Racer, Leon has committed to raising $2000. The challenge has personal meaning for him; he was born with a hole in his heart, caused by a congenital heart defect called Tetraology of Fallot. 

An operation at age 6 repaired the hole, and thankfully Leon’s had very few problems since.

“The older I get the more I'm wanting to keep fit and eat well to keep the doctor away later in life.”

Leon says being a Golden Heart Racer gives him extra motivation to train for and complete the marathon.

“Running for a great cause will definitely give me that extra push. The Heart Foundation is always in the back of my mind during any running I'm doing now. It makes it that much more worthwhile!”

By completing the marathon, Leon hopes to inspire others to improve their health with exercise.

“I want to try and motivate others to get out there do some form of exercise for a healthy heart. If we can do that, there will be fewer heart problems in the world,” he says.

“I think we all need to get some form of exercise and try to find ways to make it fun so we’re not dreading it – otherwise we won’t want to do it. For me, I hated running but after crossing that finishing line, it gives you that sense of achievement and I have now found a passion for it.”

The thrill of the finishing line continues to spur Leon on as he trains for the race.

“I’m entering every half marathon possible, using them as training just to remind me that it’s all worthwhile because crossing that line is an amazing feeling! 

“I can’t imagine how great it would feel crossing the line after completing a full marathon. I'm saving that feeling for the Auckland Marathon since that’s pretty much where it all started.”