Introducing MARIA KROONENBERG - Ultra Distance Runner

Introducing MARIA KROONENBERG - Ultra Distance Runner

Welcome to our Ambassador blog series, where we celebrate the diverse passions and pursuits of ordinary Kiwi's achieving the extraordinary. From athletes to artists and everything in-between, they embody the spirit of New Zealand through their shared love for their respective sports, activities, passions and occupations.

Join us in discovering their inspiring stories.


Brief outline on who you are, your background, occupation, where you live etc. 

Born and bred in Aotearoa, I am a 51 year old mum of two now young adult children. I'm a full-time primary school teacher/team leader and an avid runner. Before teaching 12 years ago, I was in the magazine publishing industry and event management for 20 years. After a stint living in The Netherlands, I now reside in Hillsborough, Auckland.

What is your chosen sport/occupation/passion/interest/hobby? What attracted you to this? Why do you love doing it?

I'm a competitive runner (well a little less these days) switching between cross country, road and trail. I was a keen runner at school and university. Post-children I started running shorter distances then half marathons. I discovered had better endurance for longer distances so moved into marathons and got quite good racing both in NZ and overseas. Once my kids were at secondary school, I was keen for more of a challenge and gravitated into ultra marathons on mountains and trail. I was completely hooked - the long training, mental stamina and endurance needed ticked all the right boxes for me. I love being out in nature, discovering new places and just having time out from the word. Sometimes I run alone, other times with running friends or with likeminded groups who love clocking up crazy kms too. The running community in NZ is incredibly friendly, supportive and inclusive - I love the camaraderie and friendships that I've formed, as well as the huge health benefits that running brings.

What are the pros and cons of what you do? What would you consider your biggest achievement(s) to date? What would be your ultimate goal/dream/ destination/achievement?

The biggest pro of running is clearly mental health. It gives me a healthy balance and puts me back in nature which forces me to refocus and ground myself. I can switch off and clear my head or problem-solve an issue just looking at things from different perspectives.

The cons are the obvious niggles and injuries that are part of running, especially as I'm getting older, and the few scars from falling over that go with it.

I've had plenty of proud podium wins over the years, but my biggest achievement to date has to be running my second-ever 100km race exactly a year after being diagnosed with cancer, being operated on and then discovering two overlapping autoimmune diseases that hindered my treatment options. That was in 2021. I ran the South Island 100km ultra in testing conditions (it rained the entire 11hours I was course). I came 4th, no podium, but it was the best win of my life!

My goal is to just keep running and hopefully inspire some the next generation that sit in my classroom each day to do the same.

How does X-ZONE help you to achieve your goals?

The first thing that attracted me to X-Zone, which I have been using for a few years, was the NZ herbs used which make it such an effective sports rub. I use it pre-race to warm up my muscles, it comes with me on ultra races and training, and of course post-running relief. Even just muscle pain from sitting too much as school or overdoing it in the garden, X-Zone hits the spot. I also really love the spray which will be a new addition in my pack for my ultra. The team at X-Zone are so invested in their product to make sure it delivers exactly what it offers - I am hooked for life!

Insta: runnermum_mjk

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