Master Of The Marathon Majors
PRIEUR DU PLESSIS IS A STELLENBOSCH BASED BUSINESSMAN WHO HAS FINISHED SIX OF THE MOST FAMOUS MARATHONS IN THE WORLD – AND EARNED HIMSELF A UNIQUE MEDAL. HE HAS NO INTENTION OF STOPPING THERE...
This Stellenbosch runner took on six of the world’s most famous 42.2s.
I AM 63 YEARS OLD. I live with my wife (former TV producer and presenter Isabel Verwey) and two children (aged 19 and 17) in Stellenbosch. I serve as nonexecutive director of a number of companies, the honorary consul general of Slovenia, and as a professor at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.
I started running 30 years ago, because I wanted to lose weight and finish a marathon. I lost 40kg within a year. Ever since, I’ve been living by these words from Bob Seger’s ‘Against the Wind’: ‘living to run, running to live’.
I’m a veteran of more than 50
marathons. I’ve learned that success in long-distance running depends partly on natural talent, but also on dedication, perseverance, self-discipline and a self-starting temperament. As an older runner I’m more prone to injury, and I’ve had to develop the mental toughness I need to return to top form after a layoff.
I thrive on setting long-term goals.
The Abbott World Marathon Majors is a series of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world: the Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon, London Marathon, Berlin Marathon, Chicago Marathon and New York City Marathon. After I completed them all [It took Du Plessis six years to complete the Majors. – Ed.], I was awarded a Six-
Star Finisher Medal. I enjoyed the challenge of a multi-year project – and running past the attractions in these cities meant I could indulge my passion for travelling.
My typical training week consisted of five days of running, including a long run of 20-35km on Sundays, a 10-15km mid-week run, and a combination of quality and recovery sessions on the remaining days. I followed a programme written by Olympian Jack Daniels’ RUN S.M.A.R.T team in the US.
Jonkershoek was my go-to place for a long run. When I travelled overseas, I stayed at hotels close to running routes through parks and alongside rivers.
Board and committee meetings
tend to take place on a quarterly cycle, they’re usually clustered together, and dates are set more than a year in advance. I work in the morning on weekdays. It took a bit of planning, but I always found gaps in my schedule for training and racing.
At the opening ceremony of the
2013 New York City Marathon I carried the flag for South Africa. I was joined by fellow South African and former winner Willie Mtolo, and thousands of other participants who represented 85 different countries. This more than made up for the disappointment I’d felt the year before, when I travelled all the way to New York only to hear the race had been cancelled at the last minute because of Hurricane Sandy.
The Japanese are the most polite and helpful people I have ever met, as I discovered when I participated in the Tokyo Marathon.
The Chicago Marathon was the toughest of the six marathons, because I had an injury that forced me to walk most of the course.
I’m not done yet. Becoming a member of the Seven Continents Club [participating in a 42.2km race on all seven continents. – Ed.] seems like the next logical step, especially as I’ve already completed marathons on four of the seven continents, which was a requirement for the Majors. The remaining three continents are Oceania, South America and Antarctica.
The coldest marathon I have participated in so far was the Ljubljana Marathon in Slovenia, where temperatures were between four and five degrees Celcius. I’m concerned about how I’ll cope with temperatures between -20 and zero degrees in the Antarctic! Competing in races with similar conditions in the lead-up to it will help me to prepare – and I’ll ensure I line up at the starting line carrying essential gear. Having said that, coming faceto-face with glaciers, icebergs, penguins, seals and whales will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Why do I do it? Running is in my blood. I subscribe to what author Mina Samuels wrote: “Our running shoes have magic in them. The power to transform a bad day into a good day; frustration into speed; self-doubt into confidence; chocolate cake into muscle.” It would be a woeful day if I ever had to hang up my running shoes. Drawing my last breath on the run sounds like a better way to ‘retire’ from it!
SUCCESS IN LONG-DISTANCE RUNNING DEPENDS ON DEDICATION, PERSEVERANCE AND SELF-DISCIPLINE.
above and opposite Du Plessis has succeeded in finishing six of the world’s most famous marathons, and has earned himself a special majors medal in the process. And it’s easy to spot which country he’s from, no matter where in the world he’s running!