Sixty years of running and still no sign of finish

By Peter Thornton

Malcolm Attree, 74, has run 28 marathons and 126 half marathons, so far. Photo / MarathonPhotos.com
Malcolm Attree, 74, has run 28 marathons and 126 half marathons, so far. Photo / MarathonPhotos.com

Malcolm Attree is a living example of the saying: "There is no finish line."

The 74-year-old from Auckland will attempt his 127th half marathon tomorrow when he lines up in the Christchurch Airport Half Marathon. His career spans almost 60 years after taking up cross-country when he left school as a 17-year-old in 1956.

"I am pretty proud of my record over the years," said Attree. "It all creeps up on you really. I have been running for a very long time, of course, but it has gone by quickly."

Attree, who has run 28 marathons including the London Marathon, can still remember his first half marathon at Pakuranga as a younger man.

"Back then in 1980 the half marathon was quite a new event and I just turned up on the day and ran. I knew that you had to be a registered club runner to race but I had not yet joined a club so my first one was unofficial. I loved the challenge and came back the following year to run and I have done many more since."

He never looked back, well almost. He had a break from 1966-1978 when he "got married and put on a bit of weight".

Attree returned home to England and when he came back to New Zealand in 1976 his passion for running was reignited when he ran the Round the Bays in Auckland.

The Takapuna Harriers Club member loves the camaraderie and the competition that comes with the sport.

"It is always a good feeling getting out to run with a lot of other like-minded people. I find it inspiring."

Attree is an inspiration himself. He has encouraged his daughter, Kiri Price, who has forged an impressive running career of her own. Malcolm signed up for the Christchurch run specifically to support her in her 55th marathon.

"I am proud of her and what she has achieved. I can't wait to see her finish in Christchurch. I am pleased she is carrying on the family tradition of running."

The veteran's best time in a half marathon is 1:33:28 in 1987 and this weekend he is hoping to break 2:30.

"I have never been a fast runner. I was always middle of the pack even at my best but with time I have drifted back and now I am at the tail end of the field but that is okay. I just try to finish."

He trains three times a week, two runs of around an hour, and then a longer run every Sunday.

"I pace myself these days. When I first began training for marathons I was running seven times a week in the build up and it was good fun but I can't keep that up these days and am content with 3 days a week."

Attree won a trophy at the Rotorua Half Marathon when he finished second in his age group 70-74 and would like to see more competition in the upper veterans age bracket.

"It was nice to take home a trophy but I can't get too carried away, there were only four of us!"

He said the key to his long career has been not picking up too many injuries and not overdoing it.

"I have been lucky, I haven't had any big injuries, only little niggles along the way. I will keep running for as long as I can. It keeps me fit."

Attree is not the sort to blow his own trumpet. But he offered some simple advice for other veteran runners trying to get fit. "Just get out there and give it a go. You never know what you might achieve."

- NZ Herald

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