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...

Runner's World South Africa - - CONTENTS - WORDS: LISA ABDELLAH

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!

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