A record number of walkers and runners hit the pavement to support the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) for the Auckland Marathon.

Clusters of purple and white MHF t-shirts were seen peppered throughout the 5km, 12km, 21km and 42km courses.

“I've run a couple of marathons and 20 or so half's and usually found them to be relatively solitary experiences, but I loved being able to give and receive a little smile and wave to other people running in their purple MHF shirts,” marathon runner Ben Pryor says.

Ben was one of 250 runners and walkers who chose to support the MHF – that’s more than double the number of people last year.

The group managed to raise a record $228,000 for the MHF and donations are still coming in.

“We’ve blown it out of the park mate, we had to keep putting our target up,” Keshlar Inglis, MHF events and fundraising co-ordinator, says.

Keshlar, or Kesh as she was known to the runners and walkers, formed strong bonds with everyone over the six months leading up to the event.

“I knew the reasons why they were running and how much our charity meant to them,” she says.

Every conversation between Keshlar and participants had been over the phone or internet. But on the day, she finally got to put faces to names.

“There were a few tears because a lot of people were running in memory of loved ones they’d lost and for them to do it just meant the world to them.

“The first female runner just cried and cried, a song was playing that brought back memories of her brother, and as soon as she saw me we just hugged and cried,” Keshlar says.

Post-race BBQ goes down well

At the finish line, runners and walkers hobbled or inched their way to the MHF tent, where they were met by Keshlar and her crew on the BBQ.

“We went through about 400 free range eggs from FRENZ, 20 kilos of bacon and 300 bread rolls,” Keshlar says.

The post-race feed went down as one of the best.

“It was such a good way to re-fuel, but just as great to meet other runners and their friends and family who support the work that the MHF does,” says Rachael Clarke, MHF senior communications and marketing officer.

Rachael and four other MHF staff ran alongside fundraisers on the day.

Keshlar says hearing stories from the day remind her why the work that the MHF does matters.

“If you listen to the stories, your heart just melts.

“Everyone loved everyone, so many friendships were made through it all – to me it just confirmed how important our charity is and what it means to everyone. “

Keshlar reckons next year’s Auckland Marathon event will be even bigger.

“We have so many people who are keen to come back and run for us again, and this time with their families, so watch this space,” she says.

Find out more about taking part in next year's Auckland Marathon.