Thursday, 3 September 2009

It’s good to see my old mate Tony Laker putting his proverbials on the line by taking on the 100th Anniversary Southland Half Marathon on November 22 as the Southland Times’ guinea pig.

I see he’s modestly described himself as having legs resembling a 1.9 metre stick insect and a running style that should be listed as a registered charity! I think he’s being somewhat uncharitable to himself.

These days Tony is one of Southland’s leading entrepreneurs (just ask him). He now owns one of the country’s largest travel agencies but I’ve known him since his days as a modest Air New Zealand employee and a simple Bluff fisherman’s son (these days he makes a fortune peddling that very story on the speakers’ circuit).

Back in 1995 when the Scream Team (Lee Piper, myself and statistician / technical assistant Podge Macpherson) started travelling to commentate the Stags’ away games, Tony was in charge of getting us there. More often than not he accompanied us so we built up a lasting friendship.

Unlike the table-topping Stags of today, some of the Southland sides of the mid-1990s were mixed in their performance. Whereas today’s side is mostly home grown, back then we had imports, some of whom should probably have been immediately exported.
The management however was largely home grown and I have fond memories of having a few quiets on the night before the game with the likes of Keith Robertson, the late great Roger Ramsay and Doc Pete Finlayson (who’s still there!).

Because the commentary tours of duty we undertook were relatively taxing, early on we realized if we were to survive, some physical activity other than elbow exercising was needed. Thus the running shoes were always thrown in with the broadcast gear (there was one notable exception - Podge always claimed someone had to stay at home to mind the valuables!)

So that’s how I came to appreciate the athletic prowess of Tony Laker - as we pounded the pavements and parks around the likes of Whangarei, Takapuna, Hamilton, Napier, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch and Timaru.

That athletic prowess will be sorely tested when he runs the 21.1 kms from Wrights Bush to Surrey Park. I’ve now mercifully retired from long-distance running with three marathons under my belt but I still reckon the Invercargill half marathon is the mentally-toughest run I’ve done. Seems bizarre, I know, but believe me, Queen’s Drive can take on Everest-like proportions when you’ve run out of puff.

So a 1.9 metre stick insect with a running style that should be listed as a registered charity? No, that’s a bit harsh Tony.

A new-born giraffe on P? Well maybe.

Good luck Big Guy. Break a leg!


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