February Newsletter


To all our members, sponsors, partners, ambassadors, guides and volunteers -we hope you are having a great 2018 so far and that you all have recovered from Christmas, the New Year celebrations and your holidays. We know life is busy so we appreciate whatever your role and relationship are with Achilles New Zealand and we absolutely value your contributions to Achilles NZ. This update is mainly about events-reflections on the wonderful Cigna Round the Bays held in Wellington conducted by Sport Wellington where approximately 70plus Achilles members/guides/volunteers and ambassadors attended and information on the Rotorua and New York Marathons.


From Suzanne de Geus Cigna NZ Head of Sales:


Cigna Round the Bays 2018 welcomed an impressive 14,455 people from around the country to Wellington to compete in the annual event.

“Helping our communities maximise their health and well-being is a huge priority for us and it was fantastic to once again see people come out and get involved – whether it was running, walking, pushing a buggy or this year on a scooter,” says Suzanne de Geus, Cigna New Zealand Head of Sales and Marketing.


Last year’s number of participants of 14,300 was surpassed with 14,455 taking part this year. In 2016 numbers were just shy of 14,000. Breaking the total race numbers down: 2,000 took part in the Cigna Achilles Half Marathon, 3,600 in the Bluebridge 10km and a further 8,855 in the 6.5km fun run and Mitre 10 MEGA Buggy Walk.

Cigna was also delighted to present the event’s official charity, Achilles New Zealand, with a cheque for $20,000 during the event’s prize-giving.  “To reach our goal of raising $20,000 for Achilles was terrific,” Suzanne says. “A huge thanks to the generous donations and fundraising efforts of race participants and the inclusion of $1 from each registration to the charity.”

Allan Smith Chairperson of Achilles NZ speaking before accepting the cheque from Lance Walker the CEO of Cigna NZ


From Lisa Davies Christchurch guide

“The wind was strong, well of it course it was, the run was in Wellington after all. But even though we had to bend into a headwind in the blazing sun for much of the race, Achilles athlete Nicola Asmussen from Christchurch was undeterred.

The moment I met her, for our first run with me as her guide, I admired her. I was so nervous I wouldn’t do it right, but she had complete faith in me. A partially sighted runner, completely blind in one eye and very little vision in the other who runs wearing gloves because she expects to fall. Regardless, during the Cigna Round the Bays half marathon, as people threaded around us in an endless stream, Nicola was fearless and driven and we smashed it.

It’s an amazing feeling to run as a team. Nicola, me and fellow guide Rachel Hill. The last kilometre, we ditched the band we hold between us, to navigate the crush of runners and walkers. We all held hands, and crossing the finishing line, we thrust our arms high in the air, because that’s what winners do. “ 


From Logan McMullen athlete (he is there somewhere !!!!)

“Standing with my guide on the Quay, I took in the sounds and smells of the 000's of runners waiting to hear the countdown to the start of the Cigna Round the Bays 2018 10km race; 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.and we're off!

A gusty on-shore breeze and increasing temperatures met us as we ran along Oriental Bay Rd, but the music, cheerleaders, water guns and support from spectators ensured that my    energy levels were continually topped up by the amazing atmosphere that this well organised event offers the athletes.

After traversing the drink stations, bumping into a few fellow runners and struggling to get my torn toenail into a comfortable position, my guide and I enjoyed the incredible support offered to all runners as they entered the finish shoot at Kilbirnie Park, and the vocal Achilles team in the Cigna tent ensured that I felt great pride about running my first event since losing my sight...thank you

Achilles, thank you Cigna and thank you Wellington for a great event!”


From Gareth Stythe guide along with Penny Oxley to Stephen Jenkins

“Cigna Round the Bays was my first event with Achilles.  I was a little nervous before travelling to Wellington; my apprehensions were along the lines of who would I meet, did I have the right gear, would I do my guiding job well enough etc.  I needn’t have worried because all of the people associated with Achilles were amazing and the event ran like clockwork.

The day dawned bright and a little breezy and all the athletes and guides gathered in our yellow running tops in a park by the start of the event.  It was great to feel part of this family of and to be helping people to achieve their goals.  Penny Oxley and myself were guiding Stephen Jenkins, who is experienced at these events.  After a couple of minutes warm up at the start we and four or five thousand others were off.  You can’t hide in the yellow shirts and the people around us were all really supportive.  Lots of cheers of “go Achilles” echoed around us as we made our way up the first few km’s.  Stephen is a strong athlete and our job is really to provide pacing and encouragement along the way.  As the distance went by our confidence grew and our encouraging epithets increased “Go Stephen, you got this! “Great pace buddy, keep it up!”  “Nice work mate, you’re smashing it”.   As we turned for home we saw more and more groups of Achilles athletes and guides in their yellow shirts and it was super uplifting to exchange cheers as we crossed over.  We finished the half marathon in around 2 and quarter hours.  Not a PB for Stephen but a great start to a big year that he has planned for his running.”


Meet a Board Member-this month it is Matt McNeil

Originally from the UK, Matt has enjoyed a successful career in media and advertising in London and Wellington.

He fell in love with New Zealand when initially moving to Wellington in 2001 to work at Clemenger BBDO. After a brief spell back in London, Matt returned permanently to Wellington as Managing Partner of OMD, NZ’s largest media agency. In November 2016 Matt left OMD and formed The Digital Café, a new agency focusing on helping smaller businesses and organisations.

Matt has been a keen runner since early school days, representing school, county and region. He has run the New York, Paris and Berlin marathons and completed the Marathon des Sables. A founding member of the Achilles Wellington chapter, Matt became involved having seen a runner being guided one morning. It felt an excellent way to help others enjoy running.



New York City Marathon 2018 - Registrations Open for Achilles members

Join the Achilles New Zealand 25th Anniversary Celebration

Every year since 1993 Achilles New Zealand has taken a team of Achilles members with disabilities to run, walk or wheel the 42.2km/26.2 miles of the iconic New York City Marathon. We have taken well over 200 athletes with disabilities and we are very proud of our 100% finisher success rate.

This is your chance to be part of our 25th anniversary 2018 team as an athlete with a disability or as a guide/supporter and experience a marathon like no other on Sunday 4 November. Not only will you be navigating the streets of New York's five boroughs with 50,000 other participants while being cheered on by literally millions of supporters, but you will ern the right to say "I did it, I completed a marathon".

Warning! This experience will change you. The months of training and the marathon itself may be one of the hardest things that you will ever do, but as every past Achilles finisher will tell you "Words cannot do this marathon justice, it will blow your mind".

Athletes can participate on legs as a runner or walker, or on wheels in a push rim chair or handcycle

Please see link below and/or for all travel package & flight related questions, including customised itineraries, please contact Sophie Russo at Marathon Tours: Phone: 07 556 9009 Email: sophie@marathontours.co.nz


Our next gold label event where the Achilles will get together on masse will be at the Rotorua Marathon May 5 so get into your training for this iconic event


Run for Good 

Set yourself a challenge for 2018! Why not enter the iconic Rotorua Marathon on 5 May, and at the same time raise funds for Achilles who are a Rotorua Marathon Charity Partner.

Achieve your best time, aim for a new distance, or even participate for the first time – you can walk or run and there is a course for every level - Full Marathon, Half Marathon, 10km and 5km Fun Run! Enter as an individual, a family or a team, and join the wider Achilles team of runners and help fundraise to make a real difference to a great cause.

Once you’ve registered, it’s easy to set up your own or team fundraising page - visit http://rotoruamarathon.everydayhero.do/

We’ve even got a special marathon rate with the Millennium and Copthorne Hotels (call 0800 463 3846 or Email ), so why not make a weekend of it in New Zealand’s coolest hot spot!

Hope to see you there!  Rotorua Marathon Highlights Video

 A warm Achilles welcome to Kathy Tucker and Brennan Loft to the organisational structure of the Auckland Chapter and they will be working alongside Lars while Ben and Andrew who both have busy schedules at the moment are enjoying a well- deserved break.

Welcome to our new athletes and guides who have recently signed up through our website-please check out the newly updated website and our thanks go out to Matt (Board Member) and his team at the Digital Café who have worked on this for several weeks.

Our thanks to our major partner Cigna for their continued support and organisation (Justine and team) for the Cigna Round the Bays in Wellington. I know those that attended appreciated the Pasta dinner at the Quality Hotel, refreshments in the Cigna marquee at the finish, the ability to relax at the start in the starting Cigna marquee and for making us feel welcome. A special mention also to Will and Matt the Chapter leads of Achilles Wellington for their driving of the van for airport pickups, taking some of us back to the airport after the event in Wellington and some side tourist trips up to the top of Mt Victoria.

Best wishes for your training athletes and guides with all the exciting events coming up over the next couple of months especially those that you will be attending in your own local region.

Enjoy the rest of summer and happy to hear from you catch up with you over the next several weeks.











Matt McNeil