Nelson College teacher Phil Costley now holds national titles at every distance from 3000m to 100km. Photo: Jacob Page.

Phil Costley runs himself into NZ record books


Richmond runner and Nelson College maths teacher Phil Costley has earned a unique national distinction.

Thanks to victory in the New Zealand 100km Championships at Christchurch’s Hagley Park last week, Phil has won national titles at every distance from 3000m to 100km.

The 46-year-old has held 33 New Zealand titles all up in almost everything you could imagine for running.

It is all the more impressive considering the 46-year-old never won a running race at high school.

He’s won six 12km cross country titles, five 3000m steeplechase crowns, four half marathons and three marathon titles, just to name a few.

He’s earned 104 provincial running titles.

He collected his first national title in 1994 but had to wait a while to taste success.

“I started racing at 18 or 19-years-old and I thought to myself ‘I just want to win a medal – I wanted something to show for the effort I put in, but I went home empty-handed.

“I got my first medal, a bronze in 1993, but I thought it would be nice to win, so the next year I went back and won and the whole thing progressed from there.”

Phil stuck at it and the national titles kept coming to the point where he began to wonder which ones he hadn’t got.

“The last one felt like the 10,000m title I won in 2008 but then I began to wonder if I could extend it by getting the 100km title because I don’t have the speed to win them over the shorter distances.”

That day came last Sunday when Phil completed 50 laps of Hagley Park.

Phil says he runs with a high tempo and challenges runners to catch him.

“I’ve grown to accept that I can go to that deep dark place in your head and stay there longer and endure the pain longer than most when I’m running and I think that’s how I win most of my races.”

Phil has run almost every day for his entire adult life.

He runs from Richmond to Nelson College and back every day,

“I do it because I enjoy it, because I know those same people who walk to and from work and I like saying hello to them.

“Plus, it only takes me 10 minutes longer to get home than it would in a car during peak traffic.

“To me, running is thinking time, I can go on auto-pilot and just think about my school classes.”

The most national titles by a Kiwi athlete is 37, but Phil does not expect to eclipse that.

“At my age, I’m past going around the country and chasing these titles but if there is an event in my area then I’ll always be keen to run.”