Three family members from the Hutt Valley are set to complete an endurance-sapping trio of iconic marathons in just four weeks climaxing with the Rotorua Marathon on Saturday.
Husband and wife combination Michael and Linda Johnson - alongside Linda’s older brother Warren Searle - are two-thirds of the way through their demanding walking challenge after completing the Paris and London Marathons last month (April).
Now the trio – who are members of the Kiwi Master Walkers club in Lower Hutt – and set to complete their pan-global quest at the historic Rotorua Marathon – a race close to the hearts of all three competitors.
As experienced marathon walkers who between them have ticked off the New York and Berlin Marathons in the past, Michael, 54, says after they committed to the Paris Marathon it made sense to take the challenge a step further.
“We’d never been to London before and as the marathon was so close to Paris we decided to enter that as well,” he says. “We are also regulars at the Rotorua Marathon and as this will be Linda’s tenth appearance and the ninth time in a row Warren and I have completed the race we wanted to keep that run going as well.”
Walking between 60-70km a week in preparation for their three-race challenge has not been an easy task. Linda, 54, says the group often walk for between four or five hours every Saturday morning but their training commitments have reaped rewards.
“Over the years we’ve completed many marathon and half-marathons and this good base fitness has seen us through,” she admits.
Competing in unseasonably hot temperatures at the Paris Marathon made the task of completing the 42.2km course tougher than expected, but all three successfully knocked off the distance with Warren recording a time of 5:30 – seven minutes ahead of Linda with Michael a further minute back.
“Sometimes it is easier to walk at your own pace, get into a groove you just stick with that,” says Warren, 56, the fastest of the trio who has completed a five-hour marathon walk in the past.
Between the Paris and London Marathons the trio took in a one-week cruise around the Mediterranean taking in cities such as Barcelona, Rome and Marseille. Not that the trio neglected their walking commitments with Linda saying they did “heaps of walking” around the various cities and Michael admitting: “One day we even did 15 to 18 laps walking around the top deck of the boat dodging the deck chairs.”
In London the trio had a “blast” with Warren finishing the race in 5:39 and Michael and Linda together some 13 minutes further back.
“In terms of the volume of support it was incredible from beginning to end it was quite inspirational and a real highlight,” says Michael, a retail manager.
With all three admitting their bodies feel fine they are relishing the thought of once again competing at the Rotorua Marathon – where they have long term ambitions to join the much-heralded Survivors Club for competitors who have completed 15 Rotorua Marathons.
“Rotorua is the one we come away as a club every year,” says Warren, who works as a paver and landscaper. “To set a goal of completing Rotorua helps improve your fitness and is both physically and mentally rewarding. It is also a great weekend away.”
Should the trio meet their goal of completing a third marathon in four weeks it will bring “immense satisfaction” to the trio.
“I feel really privileged to have the opportunity to complete a challenge like this,” says Linda, a mother-of-four and grandmother of one. “Completing in races such as London is very emotional. When you see people wounded on the sidelines, struggling to finish you can become teary. So, I’ll be really proud when we finish in Rotorua.”