Acker blessed with ability and spirit

Marius Acker’s devotion to sporting excellence is so strong that when he was knocked over by a negligent motorist at the Cayman Islands Triathlon last year and briefly blacked out, he immediately got back up and continued running.

Despite bleeding from a deep elbow gash, in a state of shock, disoriented and not sure whether he was seriously injured, he kept on running.

Acker finished second to visitor Patrick Harfield but kept his decade-long record of never having been beaten by a local in a triathlon.

David Lim was second, two minutes behind Acker, who finished in 2 hours, 19 minutes and 3 seconds. It will be interesting to see if Lim can close the gap this year.

Ben Creasey is new to the island and has a best Olympic triathlon time of 2 hours, 3 minutes, but the extreme heat and blustery winds here will restrict him. Acker’s average triathlon time here is 2:08, so with Lim and Creasey in the mix, this year’s event will be intriguing.

Acker mixes his swims, bikes and runs with helping to coach the middle distance runners guided by Derek Larner.

Acker, who used to coach kids in basketball for a number of years until the program was discontinued, also plays tennis, surfs, kitesurfs and mountain bikes.

There is also some track running and regular road runs in addition to the annual bike-and-run challenge of the Genesis Duathlon (on May 3), the Stroke and Stride series in the summer, and open water sea swims trying to catch the teenage torpedoes.

But Acker enjoys surfing the most.

“I am passionate about sport, and I see it as a gift from God that I am talented in endurance events,” he said. “Training comes naturally to me, I do not need to motivate myself to train as it is something I enjoy and is part of my lifestyle.”

Sport allows him to see the world from a different perspective and also challenges him to push his mental and physical boundaries.

There have been many sporting highlights. In the U.S., the most satisfying ones were winning a 10 kilometer road race in Washington, D.C., winning the Key West half-marathon, and taking the Redding half-marathon title in California last year.

In his South Africa homeland, the high points were winning a long-distance triathlon and a sprint series tri and qualifying for provincial teams in cross country, athletics and triathlon.

He also finished in the top 12 in triathlon at national championships and was selected for South African national teams several times.

The list of Acker’s triumphs in the Cayman Islands is extensive. He is most proud of winning the Stroke and Stride series, the duathlon and Cayman half-marathon title multiple times, and capturing the Cayman triathlon on his third attempt, before dominating the event for years.

Two months ago, he added the Mercuryman Half Ironman to his long haul. That was particularly pleasing for him because he entered the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile event on short notice without serious training and managed to beat a pro in the process.

Acker has also competed in New Zealand where he had several top 10 finishes in a Stroke and Stride series of eight events, unlike here which has only three.

The 43-year-old works for accounting firm BDO in restructuring and insolvency, and there are still many sporting ambitions left on his list.

One is to run one more marathon, in under 2 hours, 55 minutes. He has only ever run three 26.2-mile distances, his best being 2:42.

He also wants to kitesurf in Table Bay in Cape Town, South Africa, surf and kitesurf in Hawaii, and complete the Cape Epic, a seven-day mountain bike stage tour in South Africa. It’s regarded as the Tour de France of mountain biking.

Growing up, Acker started running and surfing at age 12 and realized he was gifted in endurance events. At 15, he was a provincial champion in cross country and at 19, it was provincial honors again in the 5,000 meters on the track.

At 22, he was excelling in triathlon, and two years later he was selected in the Olympic distance triathlon, duathlon and long-distance triathlon disciplines to represent South Africa internationally.

Who are his sporting heroes? “You won’t believe this, I don’t have any,” he insisted. “I do follow surfing and tennis and the Ironman triathlon championship event in Hawaii, but I don’t have sporting heroes.”

Acker loves the diversity and magnetism of the Cayman sporting scene. “It is interesting to see new arrivals who initially are not very sporty and all of a sudden, six months or a year later, they are very active.

“The wonderful weather and the lifestyle the island offers complements incorporating more sport into your average daily routine. The average work commuting time allows more leisure time than most other places in the world.

“Sport is a way of socializing with other nationalities, and it is a good way to meet new people and build friendships,” he said.

He does feel, though, that Cayman’s isolated location makes it difficult and expensive for teams and individuals based here who excel in a sport to measure themselves regularly against better competition.

He would like to see the opening up of local sport facilities like Truman Bodden for more athletes of all abilities. “I would love to see a dedicated indoor basketball facility being built,” he said.

Acker feels that Cayman could improve its sporting tourism revenue by marketing itself better as a sports training destination, especially during the U.S. winter.

“This is something that should be able to produce jobs and boost revenue for the local economy,” he added.

He is aware of the new wave of triathletes coming through. In addition to Lim and Creasey, there are plenty of Caymanian youngsters – some in the Flashy Nation group – devoting themselves to triathlon excellence. They include Kendall Ebanks, DJ Evans, Jordan “JJ” McLean, Pedro Lopez Ramos, Marlon Crowe Jr. and Samuel Young.

“Ben Creasey will be cleaning up in some of the events as long as he is here,” Acker said. “Matthew Courtis will be difficult to beat in the Stroke and Stride series.

“Upcoming athletes like Will Edwards and Dominic Dyer could do really well if they mix their running with swimming and cycling as cross training and will be challenging the multi-sport athletes.”

Both work out in the gym and their parents cycle and compete in triathlons. Acker believes it would be really easy for them to step up to triathlon.

“The Flashy Nation guys have come a long way since they started, and it’s great to see them motivating each other and how they are improving,” Acker said.


Marius Acker is not slowing down at 43. – PHOTOS: RON SHILLINGFORD

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