Walking around the village of Carcoar is enough to give most mortals a stitch. Climbing Mount Macquarie looks tougher than scaling Mount Doom.
But Ray James is seemingly no mere mortal.
At 69 years of age, James ran in Sunday’s Carcoar Cup marathon, finishing the 42.2 kilometre trek around the incredibly undulating course in a respectable time of four hours, 43 minutes and 36 seconds.
He didn’t win. Didn’t even take gold his 60-plus category. And, really, ‘bloke in his 60s runs marathon’ is not normally news.
But ‘bloke in his 60s runs 303rd marathon’ … well, then … drop everything.
It’s almost Bradman-like.
As mentioned earlier, James is seemingly no mere mortal. For one, he strangely enjoys running for hours on end, kilometre after kilometre.
“I enjoy the feeling of the challenge at the start and there’s nothing like the feeling of the last kilometre as you knock another one off,” James said.
“It’s a unique feeling and it doesn’t matter how many times you do it.”
James first ran a marathon in the 1980s.
His logic? If Rob de Castella can do it “well, God, I can get out there and do it too”.
Now, that’s not great reasoning when you consider Deeks is an former world champion marathon runner, not everyone can do that.
James admits, as a result, his first crack at what he describes as the ultimate challenge was an absolute disaster.
But it didn’t deter him.
He took a break from distance running when his kids came along and his job as a university lecturer is a time consuming one too, but whenever the Balmain resident got the chance he hit the pavement.
To borrow a line from distance running phenom F. Gump – you might have heard of him – if James was goin' somewhere, he was runnin'.
He now knocks out about 25 marathons a year – including the Carcoar Cup event annually.
The 2018 #CarcoarCup marathon is off and running. Starter's gun is a whip out here.— Nick McGrath (@nickmcgrath4) November 3, 2018
Spoke to 69-year-old Ray James, running in his 303rd marathon. Incredible.
In other less-impressive news, I got puffed walking from the car park to the Main Street #athletepic.twitter.com/d1ZRiAhfGf
“I’m not a gardener and I don’t collect stamps, running was always part of my life. It was natural to take it up again and it’s the ultimate challenge,” he said.
“I don’t have the luxury of taking significant amounts of time off so I just squeeze them in like this on a weekend or a long weekend.
“It’s terrific. I love supporting towns like this and enthusiastic race directors. Look at all the people out here. It’s a terrific day and where else would you be on a Sunday morning.”
Incredibly, all 303 of James’ marathons have been completed in Australia.
And he says the Carcoar event, which has more rough ups and downs than the old Bush Beast at Wonderland, is easily the most grueling run of them all.
“This is definitely, I think, the toughest road marathon you can do,” he said.
“I mean, there’s trail marathons where you go up mountains but this is, if you want to call it a road marathon, the toughest. It’s got hills after hills after hills and they’re never ending … but that’s the challenge.
Sometimes I’m driving somewhere and I’ll put the trip meter on and drive 42kms and think to myself … ‘this is a long way to drive let alone bloody run’.Marathon running warhorse Ray James.
“You wouldn’t come out here to run in a flat marathon. I’ve run flat marathons and they’re pretty boring.”
Flat marathons, hill marathons, boring marathons and, if there’s such a thing, exciting marathons – he’s done them all.
To put into perspective, James has run a touch over 12,786 marathon-kilometres. That’s more than some people have driven in their cars.
“Sometimes I’m driving somewhere and I’ll put the trip meter on and drive 42kms and think to myself … ‘this is a long way to drive let alone bloody run’,” James laughs.
“I said (on Saturday) night to some people, you know this race is going to cause discomfort … but you train to adsorb that. It’s a power thing for the mind.”
James’ mind must be a powerhouse.
He’s already eyeing off an unthinkable 400th marathon run, even if he’ll be well into his 70s when he potentially chalks up the feat.
“That might be a stretch but I reckon I can do it.,” he said.
“I pushed hard to get to 300 in Sydney because Sydney’s my home town but I’ll keep clicking them over as long as I can finish before the cut off (time).”