A charity fun run and walk is being held on Sunday, October 23, to celebrate Thomas McDonald’s 104th and last marathon.
The veteran Sperrin Harriers runner will be hanging up his running shoes - for full marathons at least - after the Dublin Marathon on October 30.
Next weekend’s fun run/walk will start from Dunamore Hall, Kildress and follow a ten mile route to the Mid Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown.
Registration for the run takes place at Dunamore Hall at 9.30am with walkers starting at 10.30am and runners at 11am.
A shorter five mile route is also offered starting from Braeside Orritor to the sports area. Registration opens at Braeside at 10am and runners/walkers start at 11am.
The event is in memory of the late John and Mary O’Kane with proceeds to Marie Curie Cancer Care and the Cookstown MS Group. Minimum donation £10.
Thomas said: “I am announcing my retirement from full marathons, after the Dublin Marathon 2016, and for the forseeable future, having had a fantastic 35 years of training and racing marathons, ultra-marathons and the Comrades Ultra Marathon in South Africa.”
He’s raced in many parts of the world, with around 70,000 miles covered in that period.
Thomas added: “I am very pleased I have been able to race for so long injury free up until the last few years and that I have been able to travel to many great cities and towns in South Africa, Europe, the USA, Uk and Ireland.
“However, there comes a time to re-assess the future. I have always said that if I was still able to run a marathon at the young age of 60, I would be very pleased. Marathons and Ultra Marathons are both very challenging on the body in terms of hill training and long distance endurance training, never mind the time commitment, dedication and motivation required.
“Some of my greatest memories are the number of Silver medals received for completing marathons under three hours.”
Included in his best times were the Vaal Marathon in Johannesburg, South Africa, completed in two hours 48 minutes and one of the world’s most challenging Ultra Double Marathons - back to back - known as the Comrades Marathon in South Africa where he covered the 56 miles in seven hours and seven minutes.
His marathon career began in 1981 at the Rand Athletic Club in Johannesburg when he was living in South Africa, introduced to the sport by his brother-in-law Brian Olwyn.
Thomas returned to his native Cookstown in 2000 and was introduced to the NI running scene by Stanley Reid who collected him after a week back in the country to take him to his first race.
He thanked all the members of the Sperrin Harriers for their support and his wife Barbara for her ‘amazing support’.
His eldest son Adrian and one his granddaughters, Shannon, supported him up ‘the last big hill’ at his 100th marathon in Derry in June 2013.
His son Wayne joined him in various training sessions, together with Wayne’s wife Briget in New Zealand. They both joined Thomas at the Rome and Barcelona Marathons.
Thomas concluded: “I look forward to spending many more great years training and getting involved in shorter races - 10ks, 10 milers and half marathons.”