Marathon ‘holy grail’

Stellenbosch businessman Dr Prieur du Plessis has just completed the Tokyo Marathon, thereby earning the so-called Six Star medal – the holy grail of running race medals.

The medal is awarded to runners who successfully complete all six events in the World Marathon Majors series, namely the New York, Boston, Chicago, London, Berlin and Tokyo marathons.

To date, some 3 300 athletes have qualified for membership of this rather exclusive club.

A veteran of more than 50 marathons, Dr Du Plessis, 62, takes three to four months to prepare for an event.

He spread the six marathons over a six-year period to fit in with his work programme as non-executive director at companies including Distell, PPS, the Institute of Directors and Bridge Fund Managers.

“The Marathon Majors are about much more than just the races, but are also about the camaraderie, the event itself, and the enthusiasm of runners from all around the globe,” said Dr Du Plessis.

Which race did he enjoy most? “Each race has its own personality and uniqueness. Tokyo is the politest and best-organised. Boston is known for its rich event history and ‘heartbreak hill’.

“New York offers an only-in-America loudest experience, Berlin a spine-chilling finish at the Brandenburg Gate, London a spectacle of music and fancy-dress running attire, and Chicago a flat course for personal best times and an exciting 27th mile after-party,” he said.

The highlight of his Six Star journey was carrying the flag for the South African contingent among groups of runners from 85 countries at the opening ceremony of the New York Marathon.

His biggest disappointment was also in New York, when he travelled there in 2012, only to hear that the marathon had been postponed by a year as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

The Seven Continents challenge is next on Dr Du Plessis’s list – he still has to complete races in Oceania – the Outback Marathon in Australia; South America – the Patagonian Marathon in Chile; and Antarctica, where a marathon for only 100 athletes is offered in temperatures ranging between -10 and -35 degrees Celcius. Dr Du Plessis has already secured his Antarctica entry for 2022.