Going toe-to-toe with tar at OMTOM
Since 1984 Celtic Harriers runner Peter Taylor has been a common if peculiar sight at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon (OMTOM). You might not know his name, but his feet will certainly look familiar. Taylor is perhaps better known to fellow runners and spectators as "the barefoot guy".
After tiring towards the end of his first full marathon in 1984, Taylor took his shoes off and completed the run barefoot. He’s never put them back on again. Well, that’s not entirely true. “I do wear shoes to work,” says Taylor, “and at one stage in my life even wore shoes with a five-piece suit when I worked at the Mount Nelson Hotel.”
It’s on the road, though, that Taylor likes to go toe-to-toe with tar. Having completed his first marathon with shoes in hand, Taylor’s next step was the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon. “I’d completed the marathon barefoot so thought, why not Two Oceans. Since then, the pitter-patter of Peter’s feet have been plodding along in aid of the SA Guide Dogs Association for the Blind.
“In 1986, I saw a video of various runners dressed up as the “Michelin-man”, “Father Christmas”, “Waiters with trays” and more all raising funds while running the London Marathon. I thought, I already run barefoot, so why not me - I should run for charity too.”
Taylor recalls that his inspiration for raising money for the SA Guide Dogs Association for the Blind came from blind runners and their running partners who were already participating in events like the OMTOM.
“I thought, it would be great if I could “assist the blind runners” in some way, and also do something for my love for animals. I approached the South African Guide Dog Association and they were only too pleased to give their approval.”
As well as running barefoot, Taylor runs with his iconic red backpack, which he uses to collect donations along the route. An average OMTOM collection amount hovers around R1500, a long way off the R100 000 needed to train just a single guide dog. However, on his 30th Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon last year, Taylor raised a whopping R104 000.
This year he will be lining up for his 31st OMTOM, eager as ever to bare his soles.
Should anyone wish to sponsor this worthy and humble cause please contact the SA Guide Dogs for the Blind at www.guidedog.org.za or Peter Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shoe, that's incredible
An interesting footnote - as it were - in the history of OMTOM is that a barefoot runner completed the 56km route 10 years before Taylor’s feat.
The 1976 Two Oceans Marathon was remarkable for many reasons, one of which was the effort of a plucky schoolboy.
From the Two Oceans Marathon Story by John Cameron-Dowe, “An incredible achievement was that of schoolboy Johnny Carollissen from Paarl.
Aged 14*, he was too young to be accepted as an official entrant. Nevertheless, he ran the race unofficially and barefoot.” He finished 39th in a time of 3:56:36. Asked how he felt afterwards, he replied, “My feet hurt a little bit, but otherwise I’m all right.”
*Naturally, this wouldn't be allowed now, as the age limit for the OMTOM 56km is 20 years of age (in accordance with ASA Chapter 2, Rule 20/ IAAF Rule 141), and you cannot run the race unofficially).