If anyone wants to find Matthew “Sticks” Volkwyn, all they have to do is follow his weekly sporting schedule because he is so devoted to getting in his sessions that he rarely misses one.
Volkwyn has been a regular on the Cayman fitness scene ever since moving to the island from his South Africa homeland three years ago.
He is a regular participant at the running boot camp on Tuesday evenings at Camana Bay, Wednesday Night Running Club at World Gym and the master’s swimming sessions at Cayman International School on Thursday mornings.
Considering it is all recreational, Volkwyn trains as if he were aiming for a professional world title.
“The Cayman scene is incredibly active as there is practically a race every weekend, sometimes even more than one,” he said.
“I have always been a fit and active person but decided to take my training to the next level last year and aim to compete in races, not just complete them.” This shift in mentality and more focus in training led him to sign up for the Chicago Marathon last year, his first 26.2-mile race.
In the build-up, he completed the 2014 Stroke and Stride series, placing in the top 20. “I was pretty happy with the result as swimming is not my forte.”
After completing the Chicago Marathon in 3 hours, 30 minutes, Volkwyn managed a third place finish in the Halloween 10-10-10 in East End in October, then completed the Cayman Triathlon in November in just under three hours.
“It was my first triathlon and I was really happy with the time.”
Volkwyn closed off the year with the Cayman Marathon in December but suffered cramps in the last two miles so ended up completing the race in 3:43, still a respectable time.
This year he set his sights high, on the 50K Off The Beaten Track bush race. In order to get comfortable with the distance, he ran the entire Cross Island Relay on his own – a whole 24 miles.
“I think I was the first ever person to run this relay race as an individual. It was a good race as there was support the whole way through.
“People couldn’t believe I was doing the whole thing myself though, they thought I was mad.”
In the OTBT race, Volkwyn was coming third with three miles to go until cramping got the better of him and he was passed by Ronan O’Keeffe and Jens Pankalla with a mile to go and finished fifth.
Volkwyn has concentrated on shorter races recently and improving his speed work. This resulted in a third place in the Deputy Governor’s 5K run, a second place in the Pirates Week Mud Run and second in the CISPA 10K run.
Volkwyn’s main focus for the rest of the year is the Cayman Triathlon and the Cayman half marathon. He aims to beat his 2014 triathlon time as well as do a sub-90 minute half marathon.
“These are ambitious targets, but if I stick to the training program and eat well, it is attainable,” he said.
“I am doing about six to eight sessions a week combining speed work, strength and endurance over all three disciplines. I am also focusing on more swimming and cycling training as well as they [aren’t] as strong as my running.”
From runner to triathlete in a couple of years, Volkwyn is now considering the Mercuryman half Ironman in January.
But as he is getting married and going on honeymoon from mid-December, it will be difficult to train for it. “I don’t think it’ll be wise to train whilst on honeymoon, I think the body deserves a rest.”
His fiancée, Theodora Fienberg, may possibly object a tad to him compromising their romantic time together.
Volkwyn has tried out most sports in Cayman since his arrival. In his spare time he plays golf, scuba dives and paddle boards.
“I have run for the majority of my life so I would say it’s my favorite discipline. The more I cycle and swim, the more I start enjoying these sports as well.
“When I first arrived on island I gave indoor football and Gaelic football a try but, after realizing I couldn’t commit 100 percent, I had to give them a miss. You can’t do everything in Cayman.”
Being 6-foot 5-inch and slender has definitely assisted in his running success, especially when it comes to longer events.
He hopes to one day run a marathon fast enough to qualify for the Boston marathon. “In terms of endurance, I would love to do an Ironman race. There is one in Whistler, Canada in July 2016, so that might be a feasible option.”
Volkwyn has just turned 31. Like most South Africans in Cayman, he is in finance and works as an accountant, for Advantage Insurance.
His sense of belonging in the sporting community since arriving from Cape Town is immense.
“I don’t have sporting heroes in the true sense, but there are several local role models I look up to and draw inspiration from.
“The main ones include James Murray, who motivated me to up my intensity, and Chris Sutton.
“Chris not only ran the Boston marathon in 3:34 but is also a machine on the bike. These achievements are impressive on their own but Chris is 66 years old. I would love to be as fit as him when I’m his age.”
Volkwyn thinks the Cayman sporting scene “is terrific.” He likes the fact that Andy Bonner’s Cayman Active website (www.caymanactive.com) keeps everyone up to date with all events and results and Race Caribbean’s timing chip system makes each event more professional.
“There is a race – and sometimes more than one – every weekend so there is no excuse not to get involved.”
In terms of the competitive scene, Volkwyn would love to see an Ironman event staged here. “These events attract the top athletes from all over the world and would offer great exposure for the island.”
On the social level, he thinks it would be great to have a Cayman park run series.
“These series [have] exploded in popularity across the globe and I’m sure it’ll be a success in Cayman. The runs are more of a social nature so you forget you are exercising with all the fun you are having.”
Volkwyn feels that closing off sections of the road for races would be the best way to not only improve tourism revenue, but also ensure the safety of athletes who are competing. He has a point. Marius Acker was knocked over by a negligent motorist at last year’s Cayman Triathlon. Thankfully, he was only stunned and got up to complete the race, but it could have been much worse.
“I have heard numerous times that athletes are apprehensive about running or cycling as the roads are still open to traffic during all races,” Volkwyn said.
If he could be a world or Olympic champ in any sport, he is not sure which to pick. “Wow, that’s a tough one. Being a world champion at any sport is a phenomenal achievement due to all the hard work, perseverance and sacrifices one has to make. When I watch the Olympics, I have so much respect for those athletes.”
For the time being, Volkwyn is happy to be a familiar face on the scene.
“I have to thank my wife-to-be for all the support and love throughout my training. I know it can’t be easy when the alarm is set at 4:30 a.m. on a weekend, or 6 a.m. is considered sleeping late, but she doesn’t complain.
“She is also there at all my races cheering me on when I cross the finish line. We also try following the paleo lifestyle as much as we can.”