06 Jan, 2014

38 Voyages… and Still Cruising

38 Voyages… and Still Cruising

It was in 1971, while studying Civil Engineering at the University of Cape Town, that Tony joined the UCT cross-country club and heard about the legendary Comrades Marathon, which he decided to run that year. “That year Two Oceans took place five weeks before the Comrades. Never having heard of the race before, I ran it merely as a training run. In a field of 30 runners I finished in 29th place in a time of 5:56. This was followed by Comrades in position 896 in a time of 10:56,” says Tony. “Based on my excruciating experience that year, resulting from gross non-preparation, I resolved never to run Comrades again, or in fact any long distance race. Runners were considered somewhat weird in those days, and so I retreated back into a life of excess and slothfulness.”


However, something drew him back, and in 1973 Tony ran both the Two Oceans and the Comrades again, this time much better prepared and clocking 4:15 and 7:47 respectively. He has not missed the Two Oceans since 1980, a run of 34 consecutive medals, and in 1995 he also ran his 10th Comrades, but says that training for a good time in both races was demanding too much of his time, and so he decided to focus on Oceans.



Tony cites his second voyage in 1973 as his most memorable, due to the massive improvement on his first, “whereas my near-miss for silver in 1981, clocking 4:00:48, would be one I would rather forget. However, 1982 was a standout year when I achieved my first silver on my seventh voyage.” In 1985 he ran his 10th Oceans and received his blue number as well as another silver medal, and 10 years later he did it again. “I shall remember the silver medal in 3:59:43 in 1995 as my greatest personal achievement in the Two Oceans, 10 years after the previous silver, at the age of 45, and it being my 20th voyage.”


Another great memory, and unique aspect, of Tony’s Oceans career is that his foxhound Roo finished five Oceans ultra’s alongside her master. “Roo joined me in a close companionship, forged out of a joint love of running. She ran five Two Oceans Marathons with me, including two where we achieved silver medal times together.”



The best single running advice Tony has for anyone starting out is to practise restraint and not take on too much to soon, as he did in his first year. “On the one hand I regret that my demanding professional and family life prevented me from achieving my full potential in running. But these days I see that as being my saving grace, as it prevented the sort of destruction to the body that has put paid to the longevity of many athletes who trained to excess in their day.”


Tony says he has been fortunate to have wonderful friends around him with whom he has shared running for many decades, and believes he has another 10 years of Oceans left in him. “There has never been a year that I have questioned the decision to run again next year, but I am mindful that the time will come one day.”