Lisburn man Matt Shields got his running shoes back on for a ‘lifetime experience’ at the Two Oceans Marathon in South Africa.
The Two Oceans Marathon - labelled as the ‘World’s most beautiful marthon’ - is also one of the toughest.
The ‘Ultra Marathon’ is a 35 mile / 56km run, which Matt jokingly says he undertook ‘under peer pressure’.
The local man is the Parkrun Ireland Co-ordinator, so he is used to running, but having last taken on a marathon 10 years ago, he had to step up his training to take on the challenge.
“I was a marathon runner in the 80s, but I’ve only done one since then, about ten years ago,” Matt explained.
“The Two Oceans is a 35 mile / 56k run. I heard about it from people who were taking part and under peer pressure I signed up,” he laughed.
“Seriously. I bought into it and stepped my training back up, doing a couple of marathons and a 50k.
“The first marathon I did was in Dublin, which I ran in 3.17 and then I did one in Jordanstown in 3.11.
“I then ran the Irish National 50k Championships, running the 50k in 3.44.”
That time at the 50k in Donadea, gave Matt the World Number 1 ranking for over 60.
The 61 year old says he has been running for 50 years.
“I’ve been running since I was 11, when I started at Lisnagarvey AC, the precursor to Lisburn AC,” he explained.
The Two Oceans marathon took place in Cape Town on Easter Saturday, where they have a half marathon and the ultra 35 mile event. There were 31,000 people between the two events.
“It started at half six in the morning, it was pre-dawn,” said Matt. “The atmosphere was quite electric, literally under the streetlights.
“It was reasonably warm, not like here if you were running in the dark.
“There were pre-start speeches and songs which built the atmosphere,” the local runner said.
“The first half hour was down to the coast and by that time the sun had come up.
“The first half was basically level, but in the second half there were three hard climbs, the last one was about 7k long and then there was 10k downhill to finish.
“That last hill was quite a challenge,” he said. “By the time I reached the finished I was tired, but happy.”
Matt finished second in the over 60’s, with 450 people entered in the over 60 category, running a time of 4 hours 30 minutes.
“I’ve been running for 50 years,” Matt explained. “I’ve run marathons in Belfast, London, Dublin.
“I’ve had lots of experiences in running,” Matt commented, “but I never thought I’d have an experience like this.
“It was a lifetime experience, which is amazing to have.
“At 61 I thought I’d collect my slippers and be content, but to be able to do that and experience that was absolutely amazing.
“It’s up amongst the top experiences I’ve had in running,” he concluded.