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HOKA'S 1:05 HALF MARATHON HOT SHOT - WHO IS MATT BAXTER?

November 30, 2020

HOKA'S 1:05 HALF MARATHON HOT SHOT - WHO IS MATT BAXTER?

I have been a competent runner since primary school, but it wasn’t until age fourteen that I picked up my first coach and started taking the sport seriously. My passion for the sport developed while at New Plymouth Boys’ High School and continued to flourish through my participation with Egmont Athletics. In my final year of high school in 2012 I won the NZSS Cross Country Championships and the NZSS Track and Field Championships 3000m in a record time of 8:15.50 — this record still stands. 

After high school I spent 2.5 years at AUT in Auckland studying criminology and trying to continue running at a high level. Although my studies were going well, I felt like I needed to be challenged more with my running so I decided to go to the US and compete for a college over there. This was when I made a big jump in my athletic abilities. During my time at Northern Arizona University I was a part of 3 NCAA D1 cross country team titles, I got 5 first team All-American awards, I placed 2nd as an individual at the NCAA cross country championships in 2017, and I ran 13:31 for the 5000m and 28:10 for the 10,000m on the track. These performances were what led to HOKA Northern Arizona Elite, based in the town I went to college in, offering me a professional contract to join their team. I accepted this and have been running for HOKA NAZ Elite since January 2019.

 

 

As a pro athlete I have won 2 New Zealand national titles, run 62:57 for the half marathon, and broke the NZ indoor 5000m record running 13:27 earlier this year. I am now back in New Zealand preparing for the domestic track season where I will be working towards qualifying for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics in the 5000m.

I plan to return to the US in March next year and rejoin my HOKA NAZ Elite teammates in the mountains of Flagstaff. In the meantime I have a big domestic track season planned over the next few months. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, but I am incredibly grateful to be in a country where racing and life is continuing as normal. When I left the US at the start of September that certainly was not the case.

 

Training during COVID has been difficult. From March-September I couldn't get access to a gym, I spent a lot of time training on my own to avoid contact with anyone (including my teammates), and I got into an awful cycle of going from one injury to the next. To add an extra stressor to the situation, my partner was pregnant and gave birth to our first child in June. His first two months of life consisted of looking at people in masks from a distance, before we came out of our isolation hotel in mid-September. My motivation to continue training during this time came from being hopeful that there would be racing opportunities available in the near future. Thankfully, after arriving in New Zealand the opportunities are plentiful and I am now back to the fitness I was in before the pandemic began.

I typically live and train in the US, but I always love coming back to New Zealand to train. The parks, trails, and beaches are like nowhere else in the world. We are so fortunate to have such beautiful places to run. With the current situation surrounding COVID in the US, it has presented me with a unique opportunity to spend seven months at home and I have loved every moment of it so far.

 

Although running is now my job, I still do it for all the same reasons that I took up the sport in the first place. I love pushing my body to its limits and the comradery that comes with training with other passionate runners. The feeling of being absolutely exhausted after a race or workout and having teammates and/or friends to share that experience with is what makes this sport so special. I have had a lot of individual and team success over my career so far, but the team successes are certainly the ones I have enjoyed the most. Running is often viewed as an individual sport and more often than not it is, but when you have the opportunity to compete as a team it is easier to push yourself a little bit harder. Keeping running fun and social has been a key part of why I continue to enjoy the sport.

The HOKA shoes that I frequently use are: The Clifton 7 for my everyday runs, the Mach 3 for some shorter runs and workouts, and the Carbon X for longer workouts. This season I have raced in the Rocket X, it is definitely a fast shoe. 
Matthew Baxter




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