MALCOLM FISHER, the eldest participant at the Partners Life DUAL for many years running, took up running when he was 62 years old, and multi-sport three years later.
Malcolm Fisher’s running career had an unorthodox beginning. Back in 2009 when he was 62, Fisher heard there was an upcoming event – The DUAL – to be held on the twin islands of Rangitoto and Motutapu. Fisher and his wife have a love-affair with the Hauraki Gulf islands, and the North Shore man was desperate to enter. “I was terribly excited to bike on the islands,” he laughs. “But by the time I got around to signing up, the mountain bike was full. I thought I would try one of the running events – but the half-marathon was full, too. The only distance with any space left was the marathon. So I ran my first marathon.”
To imply this man with the infectious smile had no previous running experience is a tiny bit misleading. Tramping has been in his blood since he was a young fellow: the family went on regular tramping holidays and Fisher recalls “I often caused a disturbance by wandering off by myself and not coming back until night.” As a young man, he was often found deep in the Pararaha Valley (Waitakere Ranges) with the Auckland Associated Mountain Clubs. “Every year we would have a race – it was called the Tramper’s Marathon but it was really only 9km – but we wore boots, of course. They even weighed our boots to make sure they were 4lbs! I always did really well in that” he giggles. Years later, Fisher didn’t think anything of heading out on a DUAL training run in his boots until disaster struck: a badly turned ankle that still plagues him occasionally. “I thought I had better buy some shoes” he says ruefully.
Fisher completed the DUAL marathon, and was hooked. Over the next three years he raced trail events all over New Zealand, undertook a number of long solo adventure runs and even raced in the British Isles. At 65 he returned to his bike and took up kayaking so that he could compete in multisport events such as The Nugget and The Wild Kiwi.
What drives him to take himself out the door and beyond his comfort zone at an age when many people are happily contemplating slippers and afternoon TV? “I like the challenge of covering the landscape” he says. “I’m uplifted by the natural environment and seeing different plants.” The latter is almost inherited: parents Bill and Muriel Fisher created Fernglen, a 12 acre native plant garden and nursery (now a reserve and education centre) that Fisher curates to this day in Birkenhead, Auckland – Muriel authored several key books on gardening with New Zealand plants.
Fisher is modest – dismissive – when it is suggested he is an inspiration. “I just like to believe I can do these things” he shrugs. “I can be a bit slack in my approach – I should probably do more training, but I have other things to do.”
There is no suggestion of this wonderful man slowing down. He rattles off a schedule of upcoming races – including this weekend’s marathon at the Partners Life DUAL – then gazes into the distance thoughtfully. “I would like to do the Hillary trail solo” he muses. “Also circumnavigate Ruapehu. I had one attempt but it didn’t go so well…” he trails off, and winks at me. That is a story for another time.