Cookstown man Thomas McDonald has called time on his marathon career after 101 races over 32 years.
Thomas became only the 24th person in Ireland to complete 100 marathons in June something that he marks out as one of his proudest achievements.
Speaking recently Thomas said of his exploits: “I am very pleased that I have been able to race for so long, injury free up until the last few years and have been able to travel to many great cities and towns in South Africa, Europe, the UK and Ireland.
“There, however, comes a time to re-assess the future. I have always said if I was able to run a marathon at the age of 60 I would be very pleased.
“Marathons and ultra marathons are both very challenging on the body in terms of the hill training and the long distance endurance training, never mind the time, commitment, dedication and motivation required.”
Among Thomas’s best times are 2 hours 48 minutes for the marathon, 3 hours 52 minutes for the Ultra-marathon (35 miles) and an Ultra Double marathon (56 miles) in 7 hours 7 minutes.
Having completed his last marathon in Dublin at the end of October, Thomas decided it was time to pass the baton on to a younger generation: “I enjoyed having two nephews Martin and Fergal also running the marathon.
“After completing the Dublin Marathon I decided it was the right time to hang up the marathon shoes and let the young generation take over.”
Thomas has vowed to continue running: “I will continue to train for some of the shorter distance races and keep in shape. I am able and willing to help any club who wants to train for marathons.”
Remembering some of his momentous acheivements, Thomas marks a race in Derry this year as one of his favourites.
“The most enjoyable medal received from returning to Northern Ireland in 2000 has to be my 100th marathon gold medal received from the 100 Club International Club of Ireland at the City Of Culture in June 2013 in Derry.
“This made me the 24th person to achieve this International Award in Ireland followed by a Gold Medal received from Lord Coe.”
Thomas had a long list of people he wanted to thank for helping him through all 101 of the marathons he completed.
“I would like to thank a few special friends starting at the Rand Athletic Club in Johannesburg South Africa, where I trained for my First Comrades Ultra Double Marathon (56 miles/ 90k) introduced to me by my brother in law Brian who once was a great runner, Of course the Walsh family, friends Bill Tempblett, Ian Williams and David Flood a great Triathlon Iron Man.
“Moving to a new home where I joined a new club by the name of Midrand Country Striders approximately 18 miles from Johannesburg and with maybe 12 members. We developed this club successfully and when leaving South Africa in 2000 there were approximately 165 members with making many great friends such as Steve, Terry, Dave, Albert, Scott & Penny Viser. I have great memories of years of training and racing together.
“Returning back to Ireland in 2000 to Cookstown and having my first race at the Armagh 10 Miler within 2 weeks after being collected by Stanley Davidson, one of the founding members of then known Cookstown Harriers.
“I have had the privilege of racing many great Marathons around Ireland, UK, Europe and further afield. I would like to thank all those who have supported me in many of my fundraising Marathon projects which I have done.
“A real special thanks must go to all the members of my present Club know as the Sperrin Harriers based in both Cookstown and Magherafelt, Northern Ireland who have supported me along the way of many Marathons.
“Last but not least, I would like to thank my wife Barbara for her amazing support along many of the Marathon Routes & the early days in 1981 assisting with Water Drinks, Special Meals and organising many flights and accommodation around the world. I have had many great moments with both my sons.
“My son Adrian and one of my granddaughters Shannon joined me up the last big hill at my 100th Marathon, celebrated in Derry on June 2nd. My son Wayne has joined me in training many sessions along with his wife Bridget in New Zealand.
“I would also like to thank Sean Donnelly of the Sperrin Harriers who assisted me in many weekends of long distance training, Jimmy Nugent and Pat O Keefe of the International 100 Club.
“I look forward to spending many more great years in training and getting involved in shorter races- 10k, 10 Milers and Half Marathons.”