Marathon centurion eyes his second ton

Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012
Norman Chan
KIRK HARGREAVES/FAIRFAX NZ
FULL OF RUNNING: Norman Chan, from Christchurch, will start his 106th marathon in the Southland Marathon on Sunday.

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Norman Chan became the fastest New Zealander to run 100 marathons in September and predicts his quest to reach 200 will happen even faster.

What makes the feat even more impressive is that it has come from a complete lifestyle change.

Seven years ago Chan was told by his doctor that there was a real chance he would not make it to 50 years of age due to his lifestyle. That wake-up call spurred a desire to get more active, starting with smaller runs then larger multisport events such as the Coast to Coast. Then he found marathon running - and has never looked back.

"I did my first one, then thought ‘I can survive this and it's not too bad'," he said.

"I did five marathons in my first year, now I can do up to 26 in a year. I lost 20kg for a start-off and it's been good."

Chan, who is based in Christchurch, completed the Dunedin marathon in September; his 100th marathon. That effort made him the fastest New Zealander to run 100 marathons, completing the feat in six years, five months and eight days.

By the time he lines up in the Ascot Park Hotel Southland Festival of Running on Sunday, he will have completed another five marathons - making the Southland marathon his 106th.

The good-humoured wine salesman, who can spend up to $10,000 a year on travel to and from marathons, now believes he will reach his 200th marathon even faster than he did his 100th.

"I started off pretty slowly, just doing five a year, now I know I can do more than 20 a year - I'm pretty durable - so I think the next 100 will be quicker," he said.

Speed has become less of a factor as the years have gone on, he says. His fastest time is 3hr 39min. His slowest - a tough trail marathon - took 9 hours. Nowadays, he prefers to pace other people and, given the huge number of marathons he does every year, personal best times are no longer on his radar.

Chan has retained traces of his old lifestyle - being on the road for a job means his diet often consists of convenience food - and he enjoys a beer, particularly after a hard run. But he's a far cry from his former days and, at age 53, is feeling better than ever.

Sunday's Ascot Park Hotel Southland Festival of Running will be Chan's fourth Southland marathon.

Sport Southland events manager Matt Sillars said it was great to have people like Chan returning to enjoy the oldest marathon in the southern hemisphere.

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"What Norman has achieved is quite outstanding, and it's great that he continues to support the Ascot Park Hotel Southland Festival of Running," he said.

"To run 100 marathons, when he's been used to a far more sedentary lifestyle, just shows what can be achieved if you put your mind to it. At the end of the day, whether you're doing a marathon, half marathon, 10k or 5k - it's all about achieving a goal.

"We're hoping plenty of Southlanders will be looking to achieve their goals in this year's event."

The Ascot Park Hotel Southland Festival of Running incorporates the Southland Marathon, Half Marathon, McDermotts Coachlines 10k and The Southland Times 150 Years 5k.

It is being held on Sunday and entries can be made at Sport Southland. For more details, see southlandfestivalofrunning.co.nz.

- The Southland Times

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