Marius Acker has such a competitive streak that he rarely needs extra motivation when preparing to defend one of his many titles.
But after reading the Caymanian Compass last Wednesday, Acker’s desire to defend his duathlon crown on Sunday rose a few notches.
Newcomer Pedro Lopez Ramos, featured in the paper, said he feels ready to take Acker’s place as Genesis Trust Duathlon champ.
The event is taxing, starting from Hurley’s in Grand Harbour at 7 a.m. It consists of a 2-mile run, followed by a 12-mile bike and finishing off with another 2-mile run.
Acker has not had the best of preparations but remains undaunted. He was ill for a couple of weeks and has only been training seriously for a week.
“I will be relying on my natural fitness which I have built up over the years and my past experience to try and control this race,” said the 42-year-old South African.
“Pedro has been rapidly improving and it is good to see more local athletes at the multi-sport events.”
Acker won the duathlon in 2008, 2011, 2012 and last year and was also half of the winning team in 2007 and 2010. He is also the course record holder for individuals.
Acker and Pam Abbott both successfully defended their 2012 titles being first male and female finishers with times of 57 minutes and 1:04:02 respectively.
Ramos was third in last year’s team race, preferring to cycle and allow elite runner Jason Saunders to stretch his legs.
Since then, Ramos has thrown himself into training and is intent on winning his first title before focusing on international representation for Cayman.
Acker admits that this event is his least favorite of the multi-sport disciplines and it is also much tougher than a triathlon or stroke and stride.
“But I will go out to enjoy the race and to give it my best, given the shape I’m in,” he said.
Apart from Ramos, Acker expects Marius Deysel, who finished fourth last year, to be challenging.
“Deysel is a good runner. He has a brand new time trial bike and he has done some training runs with me.
“There is also John David, the medical student who finished third in the 2013 triathlon, whose cycling is much stronger than my own. I consider him the main contender and a definite podium finisher.”
The duathlon always gets a great turnout because Acker feels “it tests the fitness in more than one sport and it is mentally challenging as you have to keep telling your lungs and legs not to give up when they are oxygen deprived.”
Just finishing the duathlon is always a highlight for Acker who promises himself each year to never do one again when crossing the finish line.
The fact that he has opted to do it as part of a team for several years instead of the individual event is testimony to that.
“It has taken me a couple of years to decide to do it as an individual. I raced national championships back in South Africa, where I represented my province. All I remember was the pain and suffering I went through in duathlons so coming here it took me a while to sign up again as an individual.”
Last year’s event was his best to date as Acker had to run down Johan Heath who is a strong cyclist and whose running improved significantly from previous years.
Away from sport, Acker says he is currently “running” the immigration race and hopes that his application will be approved so that he can stay to defend his stroke and stride and Cayman triathlon titles later this year.
“I’m awaiting the outcome of my application in the next couple of months and hope to be able to become a permanent resident. That will be my biggest prize since arriving nine years ago.”