Limpag: Max Telford, running legend

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By Max T. Limpag

On the run

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

FOR someone who ran the equivalent of six times around the world, an office cubicle seemed cramped. I told New Zealand running legend Max Telford this when I interviewed him in May for an article published by the Runners’ World Philippine edition in its July to September issue.

He just shrugged. It’s business, he said, and it’s booming. Filipinos love to look good, even the men, he said. Telford and his wife, Jojing, run David’s Salon branches in Cebu. He met David Charlton when the hairdresser ran his first ultra-marathon.

“Running,” Telford told me, “consumed my life.”


It’s easy to see how. Go through his running record---the longest run by a human being from Alaska to Halifax, Nova Scotia, covering 5,110 miles in 106 days; a non-stop running record of 186 miles; and a 300-kilometer record of 31 hours and 33 minutes.

He ran across Death Valley in California one way in 19 hours and 17 minutes and when people pointed out that he did it in winter, he ran it again in summer and did it two-way, covering the distance in 72 hours.

Telford specializes in running mountains. He is a two-time winner of the Run to the Sun, a 10,000-feet climb of Halekala in Maui. He ran from sea level to the top of Mt. Fuji in Japan in seven hours and 19 minutes.

Telford also ran to the top of Popocatepetl in Mexico, which, at 17,802 feet, is the second highest peak in Mexico. Telford also ran up and down Mayon Volcano.

Legendary running coach Arthur Lydiard said in a lecture in Japan, “We have a man in New Zealand called Max Telford, who actually ran 240 miles without stopping. And he can go out and run a marathon in 2:30 something. He can’t go any faster but he can turn around and go back in the same time. He sacrificed his speed to a large extent.”

Telford started running long distances after losing by one place a spot in the New Zealand marathon team to the Mexico Olympics despite running his best marathon time, 2:16. He was crushed and decided to try running extremely long distances. He has never looked back since.

Telford, however, cautions against running too far, too soon.

“You’ve got to build up to run long distances. For myself, I started as a track runner. I was a half-mile, one-mile, middle distance runner. I quickly found I could run longer better than I could run faster that was why I quickly got into marathon running and then ultra-marathon running.”

He said people should “not get into long distance right away. A fun runner has to start with a 5K to a 10K to a half- marathon.”

“Otherwise, long-distance running is quite a shock to the system. It’s quite a shock to the body. And where people make a mistake they try to do too much too early. And when they do too much too early, they find it too painful and not enjoyable so they stop before they give themselves a chance.”

“I’ve been running for 50 years and there’s no reason for me to keep running anymore but I run every day. Running is part of my lifestyle. If I can’t run, I’m really irritable. Ask my wife,” he said.

On weekends, however, Telford bikes 80 kilometers a day.

Telford said there are now too many races in Cebu. “If we had one race a month, we could get 4,000 to 5,000 runners a race, not 1,000 runners a race four times a month,” he said.

When asked whether there was a run he wished he did, he answered with a ready smile, “I did it all.”


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 27, 2011.


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