New Plymouth's Mike Morresey has carved out a career in race walking after giving up running.
Mad Mike, as he's affectionately known by his mates, can cut out a blistering 20km on the track - fast enough to qualify as the sole New Zealand representative at the Oceania walking championships in Hobart early next month.
The February 2 race, which doubles as the Commonwealth champs after walking was cut from the Glasgow Games, is over the 20km distance.
The 43-year-old qualified for Hobart when he clocked one hour, 50 minutes and one second when winning the New Zealand long-distance road walking champs on the North Shore last November.
His time was one second over the qualifying mark, with Athletics New Zealand granting him dispensation to race in Australia.
"There was a bit of drama. With one lap to go, I was struggling a little. I knew it was going to be tight. I got held up on a tight turn and lost about 10 seconds," Morresey said.
"My coach [Rodney Gillum] was screaming to me to hurry up. I could see the clock and everyone was yelling. I just kept going as fast as I could. There was a bit of relief when they said I could go."
Morresey said it shouldn't have been so close.
"I almost missed out. I was disappointed with my start, I got held up by slower walkers. There was a lot of relief when I finished. I've had a lot of support from Taranaki and it was good to repay those people."
Morresey said he immediately paid his deposit of $500 when Athletics New Zealand confirmed his selection.
"That was one of the conditions. If you qualified, you had to pay up. I was only able to do that thanks to the support from small businesses and friends in Taranaki."
Morresey, who only took up race walking three years ago after five years of running, said his final hitout before Hobart would be a 3km race in Wellington on January 24.
"It will be my final speed session, just to tune up my legs. I walk six days a week, 15km most days with speed sessions involved," he said. "I've just started doing a bit of aqua jogging in the pool, that's a bit easier on the body."
Morresey, who works for Murch Painters and Decorators, said his goal in Hobart was to dip under one hour, 45 minutes.
"That's realistic. The quality of the field will drag me along.
"All the top Australians are racing," he said. "Rodney said to me not to worry about anyone else in the field. Just do my own thing. The aim is to go through the first 10km somewhere between 53 and 55 minutes so the body is relaxed," he said.
"And then push home in under 50 minutes for the last 10km."
Morresey is no stranger to long distance walking.
He's completed a 100km race in Taupo and the 90km Comrades race in South Africa.
"They had a 12-hour time limit for that and I made it in time. I'm going back to compete in the 100th event, that's in 2022. I'll be 55 then and it's something I really want to do."
As for "Mad Mike?"
"There's a few stories as to how I got the name," he said. "Doing long runs, I've done a few and people think I'm mad."
It's a name that's stuck and Morresey even has a tee-shirt with mad Mike emblazoned across the front.
"It doesn't worry me. I walk long distance because I enjoy it."
- Taranaki Daily News
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