AM co-host William Waiirua speaks about his running journey as he celebrates running each day for two years

William Waiirua on a beach
William 'Waiirua' Cribb has run every day for two years. Photo credit: Supplied

It was the day before New Zealand entered its first lockdown in response to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic that William 'Waiirua' Cribb began to run. 

What first began as a means to keep himself occupied during the weeks of intensive restrictions quickly evolved into a hobby, before eventually developing into a passion - despite having never previously identified as 'a runner'. Now, exactly two years later, Cribb - better known by his pseudonym William Waiirua - is celebrating a significant milestone in his journey: two years of running, every day.

In March 2020, New Zealanders were staring down the barrel of a nationwide lockdown that would change life as they knew it for years to come. As the nation faced a raft of unprecedented restrictions, Kiwis were confined to their homes as the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, now known universally as COVID-19, infiltrated the community.

People were required to stay in their homes as much as possible: schools were closed, businesses shut up shop, and New Zealanders began to navigate the difficulties of working and learning remotely while a deadly virus began to circulate on their doorsteps. 

Among the permitted activities were grocery shopping, trips to the pharmacy, and exercise - locally, in your neighbourhood, while maintaining a physical distance from others also attempting to achieve their 10,000 steps.

Having taken up running the day before New Zealand was plunged into COVID-19 alert level 4, the most restrictive tier of measures in the Government's now defunct alert level framework, Waiirua decided to pursue the hobby more seriously under this 'new normal'. Committing to a run each day throughout the lockdown, he officially embarked on his running journey. 

"It started the day before the first lockdown and I've been running every day since - it's been nearly two years to the day," Waiirua told Newshub. 

"I started running as a way to get through lockdown since we didn't have anything else going on. I just thought, 'why not go for a trot every day of lockdown?' That's how it started and it got me through 100 days. When the lockdown ended, I thought I might as well keep running every day for a year - now it's been two and I just keep going. I just love it."

AM co-host William Waiirua speaks about his running journey as he celebrates running each day for two years
Photo credit: Supplied

Waiirua, who rose to prominence on social media with his signature catchphrases, unique dance moves and iconic glasses, previously worked at the Child, Youth and Family Department - now Oranga Tamariki - alongside New Zealand's most vulnerable children. Now, his playful charisma has arguably earned him the title as one of Aotearoa's favourite funny guys.

The self-proclaimed "moraale booster" (yes, that is the correct spelling) and musical artist has since solidified his career on the silver screen, featuring on Dancing With The Stars and Māori Television's Whatta Beauty, a series of comedy skits.

Now, Waiirua joins Ryan Bridge, Melissa Chan-Green and Bernadine Oliver-Kerby as a co-host of Three's newly revamped breakfast television show, AM. As the roving weather presenter, he travels around the motu to report on local community stories and events.

Speaking to Newshub to celebrate the two-year milestone in his running journey, Waiirua offered his top tips to Kiwis who are looking to start their own quests to a healthier lifestyle. While mustering the motivation can be tough at times, Waiirua says the key is simply getting to the starting line, so to speak - sometimes getting dressed and ready to run is the hardest part.

"If I'm having a bad day my thing is to just head to the start line. Just getting to the start line is all it takes. I always feel better after it - it's just getting over the first hump that's the tough part," he explained.

"Once it's gone, you're good to go! When you break it down, it's only 5 percent of your day, which is nothing. Just half an hour is all it takes and you'll feel so much better for it. No excuses... hold [yourself] accountable. Be consistent and committed."

AM co-host William Waiirua speaks about his running journey as he celebrates running each day for two years
Photo credit: Supplied

But unlike others, Waiirua isn't just running for himself. He's also running for the people who look to him as a source of inspiration, the plethora of fans who are now following his journey, in the hope of inspiring more people to put on their trainers and get outdoors - whether it be for a jog, sprint, or power walk. 

"Because I've made such a commitment to it and I've got people following my journey, that's become my motivation. People have started their own journey as a result of watching me do mine and that's a big motivator," Waiirua explained. 

"I was just with a mate who wasn't a runner and he's been running for 200 days straight. He was a bigger guy and he's leaned right off and is in a really good space as a result, which is awesome to see."

His commitment to continuing his journey even inspired sports equipment company ASICS to develop 2x5 Habit, a programme designed to encourage fellow Kiwis to stick to their running resolutions. According to data collected by ASICS, 50 percent of Kiwis who committed to running in 2021 had given up on their goals within the first month.

The purpose of the programme is simple: participants commit to running or walking 5km, twice a week. The programme gives its participants access to tips, encouragement and resources to keep them on their path, with the added incentives of monthly prizes - and a trip to Rarotonga if you commit to the 2x5 Habit throughout the year.

"I think it's amazing for people to get on. It's manageable - 5km two times a week is an achievable goal for anyone setting out. It encourages you to put time into yourself. All you've got to do is sign up," Waiirua said. 

"At the start you might not be able to run all 5km, but do a couple and walk the rest and build up to it. I've heard a lot of people have signed up and started their own journey, which is awesome to hear. I run a bit more than the programme encourages - I do at least 5km a day - some days it's more. But having goals and incentives to motivate you is really awesome."

AM co-host William Waiirua speaks about his running journey as he celebrates running each day for two years
Photo credit: Supplied

And unsurprisingly, Waiirua's dedication to pounding the pavements has paid off in regards to his overall health, fitness and wellbeing. Between his busy mornings on live TV, managing his social media platforms and meeting new people day in and day out, running has become a source of calm, a stabilising and grounding force that helps him to reflect and reconnect - what Waiirua calls "active meditation". 

"Without a doubt, mentally, I feel better than I've ever felt in my entire life. I consider running my active meditation. I live an intense life - my days are dynamic, between TV in the mornings and always meeting people out and about it can be full on - so running is my time to do my own thing and focus on me," he told Newshub.

"I just run with my thoughts. I really enjoy taking in and enjoying my surroundings. Seeing both mental and physical results has also been a big motivator to continue my journey."

His progress is also evident physically. Waiirua has lost 10kg since he started his daily runs two years ago, and has significantly improved his speed and cardiovascular endurance. When he first embarked on his journey, it would take him 40 minutes to run 5km - he has since halved that time.

"When starting out I did what I could manage. Start small and build up to it. Don't worry about what anyone else does, just go at your own pace. When I started I was really slow, it took me 40 minutes to run 5km - now I can do it in 19 minutes," he revealed.

"It's just about turning up and doing what you can, until you build up the fitness to push the distances further."

As an ASICS ambassador, Waiirua is a big proponent of the sportswear brand. Brand-new gear or a flash kit with all the bells and whistles can sometimes be a source of motivation, he says - but if that doesn't work, he recommends running with a few pals to foster a sense of friendly competition, but also to hold one another accountable.

"Get a few friends together and start together with a group. Hold each other accountable to get out there," he said.

"It's a good, fun way to get going."

Waiirua will officially celebrate his two-year milestone on March 23.