Adrian van Raaphorst, will line up for his 600th start with the Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Club this Sunday.
He was bitten by the running bug in the early 1960s and has covered 33,863 kilometres running, on foot, since 2003 alone. Perhaps he has covered three times that distance throughout his life.
Impressive as that seems, for a man who turns seventy in three months' time, this isn't a club record, although 600 of anything in most clubs would be.
Jack Trounson, three years older than The Van with 670 club starts behind him, has kept impeccable records which show that his lifetime 100,781 kilometres of road, trail and goat-track running would spin him twice around the Equator, with a bonus lap of the moon.
"I wouldn't be far behind that," Van Raaphorst said
"I won my first race with Ballarat YCW when I was 15 (1966) and haven't stopped since. At my peak I was doing up to 100 km a week and once even a 140."
He recalls that in 1981, which marked the first of 15 marathons, he ran for 365 consecutive days.
"But I made sure I had New Years' Day off in 1982," he grinned.
"I was averaging 2000 km a year until a few years ago, but now I'm down to around 1600.
I still run up to 45 km per week when I'm not grape-picking (113 hours this season) or riding the bike to prepare for the Great Victorian Bike Ride."
One of The Van's earliest memories was racing a tram from Lake Wendouree, to greet one of his mate's girlfriend at a stop 1.5 kilometres down the road at the Forest Street corner.
"I doubt I could beat that tram anymore, but that couple ended up marrying and they're still together to this day."
In his heyday, Van Raaphorst, shoulders-hunched and arms pumping in his typically pugnacious style, could scorch over 5000 metres in 16 minutes and burn 10 kilometres in 35.
But these days, when racing, he's more likely to be the fittest than the fastest.
"Too many people of my vintage can't get around at all, probably due to years of inactivity. I think I've chased my last tram, but I like running and I don't think I'll ever stop."
Jack Trounson and The Van will match ageing motors for the umpteenth time on Sunday in the King of the Hill, a gut-busting three kilometre slog to the top of Ararat's One Tree Hill. Neither will be crowned king.
Trounson will greet the timekeepers with pain in both ankles and Van Raaphorst, more alarmingly, will finish as he always does, choking from the effort, but it is 600, not out.
- Keith Lofthouse
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