x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

60-year-old runs 323rd marathon

Louis Mayssan, 60, is all set to cross his 323rd finish line, when he takes part in tomorrow's Dubai Marathon.

Dubai // Among the 1,800 runners in fancy dress who will compete in the Dubai Marathon tomorrow, there is one man who has "hit the wall" more often than he can remember.

In what he hopes will be a little under four hours, 60-year-old Louis Mayssan will cross his 323rd marathon finishing line.

"I've done well over 1,200 races in my life," he said. His tally includes 10km and 15km contests, as well as the "ultradistance" 89km Comrades race in his home country, South Africa.

That was his first race, in 1973. The next year, he went back for more.

"One year, I did 35 standard marathons," he said, "when I was still nice, young and handsome."

He has run so many marathons that he has even had one, in South Africa, named after him.

"It's not a huge marathon," he said. "There's about 150 entries in the race, which is in an isolated area where there are not so many runners. It's at the tip of the Kalahari."

With so many races under his belt, he knows what it is like to hit the wall - a term used when a runner suffers a severe loss of energy.

"It depends on the day, on how you're feeling. Each and every race is different. There's sometimes in the mountains and you do hit [the wall there]."

Despite Dubai's flat course, which runs the length of Beach Road from Dubai Media City as far as the giant UAE flag next to Union house and back down to Media City, it is still a tough course.

"On an undulating course your muscles work harder going up hill but then not as hard down hill," he said. On a flat course, the muscles keep the same high pace of work.

Mr Mayssan has never really stopped training since he first ran at 22. To stay in shape, he clocks 50km a week. Before the 89km race, he runs anything up to 80km a week.

He is not in Dubai just for the marathon; he is also a manager for a medical company exhibiting at the Arab Health, a healthcare trade show.

eharnan@thenational.ae