Marathon man

Allan Shadbolt is set to run his eighth Auckland Marathon in the 30th anniversary event this weekend. Photo: John Borren.

The Auckland Marathon is celebrating its 30th anniversary this Sunday, and one Pāpāmoa resident has more attachment to the event than most.

Allan Shadbolt ran in the first Auckland Marathon to include the iconic Harbour Bridge crossing back in 1992. This year, he will be competing in his eighth event at the age of 73.

As he recalls, the 1992 event was a trial run, with a waterfront marathon event previously taking place since 1936.

It is the inclusion of the Harbour Bridge which separates the current event from the original - a structure which holds extra significance for Allan.

“I walked over it when they opened it in 1959,” says Allan, recounting his trip across the iconic flyover at just 11-years-old.

“I have flown over it and been in a boat under it as well, so when the opportunity to run over it came I thought I had to do it.”

Despite his clear proficiency as a runner, Allan is a late bloomer. It was not until 1979, in his early 30s, that he decided to start pounding the tarmac, running his first marathon in Rotorua.

“My father-in-law at the time was doing his first marathon and I think he was 50 or at least close to 50,” says Allan.

“So I thought if an old guy like that – well, what I thought was an old guy at the time - can do it, I should give it a go.”

Since then Allan has been hard to stop.

He still runs five-to-six times a week when in marathon training mode, varying from long, slow runs to more high-tempo track training at Tauranga Domain.

Whilst he might have started as a novice in his early 30s, his longevity has seen Allan become one of the best in his field.

“Believe it or not, I have actually done more and more marathons as I have got older,” he explains.

“I have managed to keep my fitness up and my pace. Now, as there are less and less runners in my age group, it has put me in the frontrunners of my age group.”

When Allan turned 60 he had an ambition to match his first ever time from 1992 - three hours and 15 minutes. 

“I did 3.22, which for 16 years later I thought was pretty good,” he beams.

“When I turned 70 I ran it again and did it in 3.51, so I won my age group. I was pretty pleased with that.”

Preparation and routine are two of the main reasons for Allan’s longevity. That preparedness involves some unique practices to keep everyone in the household happy.

“I prepare my clothing and everything like that the night before the race.

“It might sound crazy, but if you are staying in a hotel there is always an ironing board. So I will set the ironing board up with all my race gear on it so I am not disturbing my wife too much when I get up early in the morning for the event.”

So what does his wife, Sheryn, think of his marathon efforts?

“Well, sometimes she thinks I am crazy,” Allan jokes.

“But she supports me well.”

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