This January Derick Marcisz of Jeppe Quondam Athletics Club in Johannesburg celebrated 40 incredible years of being a runner, during which he has raced against some of South Africa’s best runners, represented his country and covered more than 100 000km.
In January of 1970, having just turned 15, I started my standard nine year at
I continued to run on my own and then in October 1970, a friend suggested I join him at Johannesburg Harriers Athletic Club (JHAC). By January 1971 I had significantly improved my track times and was unbeaten over 1500m at the interschool events. Cross-country followed and I ran for both the school and the club. I was selected to represent
1972 was spent doing national service in the army, but as an athlete I had an easy time, running track and cross-country for the Defence Force Pretoria Club each weekend. I did not make much athletic progress that year, although I did do my first 21km and 42km – the marathon was without any specific training and I clocked 3:20.
In 1973 I started my working life in Nedbank’s International Division. I also decided that I wanted to run the Comrades that year, so I began to do daily longer runs and ran the Korkie 56km in 4:05. This built a good fitness base, so when the cross-country season started and I added speed work, my performances improved dramatically. I did not do the Comrades in the end, concentrating instead on cross-country, and winning all the provincial under-19 titles and the SA Champs in
My peak athletic years were from 1973 to 1985, during which I represented the province in track (5000m and 10 000m), cross-country (12km) and on the road (15km, 21km and 42km) and ran 25 sub-2:30 marathons, always placing in the top ten. I ran my first sub-2:30 in 1975 and got my personal best of 2:17:17 when I won the 1982 Transvaal Champs. Road racing was very competitive in the 80s. There were fewer events than today, so most of the bigger races like Striders, Pick n Pay, Peninsula and Jackie Gibson to name a few, were contested by most of the top runners. The times that we ran then are still good enough to win these events in 2010!
It was also very exciting to be part of the start of ’multi-racial athletics‘ in 1975, when we first ran against athletes of colour. I finished third in 2:25 at the SA Marathon Champs in Stellenbosch behind Gabashane Rakabela, who also became the first black athlete to win Two Oceans.
The next year all events were multi-racial and I raced Rakabela in the Callies 25km night race, where I was defending champ. We ran neck-and-neck through the streets of Germiston and were still together as we got onto the track, where he managed to outsprint me for the win. It was a privilege being part of that era.
My training was based on
I loved the hills! One of my favourite marathons was the Jackie Gibson, which is renowned for its hills. I was the first runner to break 2:30 for the course when I won in 2:27 in 1976, and I successfully defended my title the next year against Alan Robb, winning with a new record of 2:26. The 1976 race was special in that I had been on holiday touring
Although distances from 21km up to the marathon were my best, I did manage gold medals or top tens in a few of the ultras: Bergville 1978 (ninth in 3:18), Two Oceans 1979 (ninth in 3:28), Korkie 1980 (third in 3:20), City to City 1981 (fourth with Bruce Fordyce in 2:54), Two Oceans 1982 (sixth in 3:19) and City to City 1983 (third in 2:58). The 1983 City to City was one of my last major attempts at an ultra, and I should have won that race. I took the lead at 35km, went through the 42km mark in 2:26, but then the hills took their toll. I had also become a bit dehydrated, and as we turned into Wanderers Stadium, I was caught by both Hosea Tjale and Michael Rakabela, and finished a disappointing third.
I ran my first Comrades in 1975. My club had decided to send a team to the
Later that year, six of us went to
I never really enjoyed the Comrades and have only done four. In 1981 I trained with Bruce Fordyce (he went on to win his first), so I was really fit and managed to run 2:56 through halfway, but then went too hard for the next 15km. At 64km I was on 4min/km pace, heading for a sub-6:00 and lying ninth! Then I hit the wall big time and dropped back to finish about 90th in 6:49.
By the end of 1985, I had to take a break from running due to Achilles tendon problems. It was the start of the cycle craze, so I bought a bike too. One of
I also started to compete in duathlons, which had just started as the winter alternative to triathlons. My newfound cycling skills allowed me to be competitive, but during this time I did sport mostly for enjoyment, having a young family as well as increasing work responsibilities that required a lot of overseas travelling. The simple nature of running allowed me to run in some exotic places. It is a fantastic way of seeing a
In 1991 I accepted a work posting to
This will be my tenth year doing triathlons, but it seems only a few years ago that I nervously waited for the swim start in my first Energade Triathlon in Germiston. I started doing triathlons as a result of a challenge over a few glasses of wine with our ‘lunch club’. All our children had done the Midmar Mile swim with their schools, so I challenged my friends to make up triathlon teams, with the kids doing the swimming, the adults running and cycling, and I would do all three disciplines! I was not much of a swimmer, but my cycling and running ability saw me finish in the veterans’ top ten at that first race and I was hooked!
The competitive instinct came to the fore again, and I have loved competing in the age group categories that make triathlon so special. I have managed to finish in the top three in all SA Triathlon Champs since 2002, winning the over-50s in 2005 and 2006. Competing at the World Triathlon and Duathlon Champs in 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2009 has been a wonderful experience, especially since I could not compete overseas during my peak years due to Apartheid and sanctions. But one of the hardest events I have ever done was my 2005 Ironman – 12 hours is a long time! I would certainly recommend that all runners attempt this amazing event once in their lifetimes.
I have always believed in getting involved and so even from my early days with JHAC, I served on committees and helped organise events and training. I am currently Chairperson of Central Gauteng Triathlon and although it can be timeconsuming, I really enjoy being involved. And I hope to be running, cycling and swimming for a good many years to come!