There will be at least one Morpeth Harrier at this year’s Tokyo Olympics, with news that Mongolian international marathon runner Serod Batochir has qualified after posting a tremendous 2 hours 9 minutes 29 seconds in the Lake Biwa Marathon in Japan last month.
Known commonly by just his nickname of ‘Ziggy’, Batochir’s story is in itself extraordinary. Hailing from a country with little if any tradition of athletics, Batochir tells stories of needing to don at least two track suits to train in the intense cold, although these days much of his time is spent on the Japanese and Asian marathon circuit rather than at home in Ulan Bator.
Batochir arrived in Gateshead in the Spring of 2009, settling in the North East to be close to his wife’s sister and family, and with the aim of acclimatising himself for London 2012, linked up with Morpeth Harriers to train.
He quickly became involved in the local road racing season – winning, amongst other events, the North Tyneside 10k, where his time of 30 minutes 20 seconds set an impressive course record – and helped the club to a team gold in the Northern Athletics 12 stage Road Relays at Catterick and a bronze in the English National event in Birmingham. There were smiles also when he was awarded the ‘Best local runner’ in the Blaydon Race.
Batochir would go on to break the club’s own marathon record, then held by Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Mark Hudspith, when he posted a time of 2:11:35 in the London Marathon in 2011, a time he would improve down to 2:08:50 in 2014 at the Fukuoka Marathon.
A lifetime member of the club by virtue of the major games in which he has appeared, among many achievements are his victory in the Asian Marathon Championships in 2013 and his appearances in no less than eight World Championships for his country.
At the ripe old age of 39, the Tokyo Olympics will be Serod’s fifth consecutive Olympic games, a remarkable achievement in anyone’s book.