By Ian Frazer
Today we remember Peter Lahiff, 1935-2020.
Words added below from AURA President Ewan Horsburgh and Tia Jones.
Peter Lahiff faced Parkinson’s disease with curiosity and courage — two strong traits of his long, adventurous life.
Mr Lahiff, who died in Townsville last December aged 85, postponed his grounding as long as possible by pushing a wheelie walker on a 5km parkland circuit near Townsville’s Good Shepherd Home.
That was his substitute for running on Castle Hill, a daybreak habit through the decades he lived in North Ward.
Peter had a gift for maths that helped in his early days as an earth-mover driver, later as a service station operator and through 50 years’ marathons and ultra-marathons. He mentored wherever he went.
Running friends can vouch for his scientific tips on exercise and nutrition, his ever-ready encouragement and also to his yen for rating himself against other athletes, using an international age-adjusted formula.
Peter James Dominic Lahiff was born in Sydney in 1935. His parents, Stephen and Betty Lahiff, separated while he was young. In 1942, his mother took him and his sister Judy to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, prompted by a Japanese submarine raid on Sydney Harbour.
In the early 1950s he followed his mother — by then remarried — to Perth, where he completed National Service training, then found work driving earth-movers on the Snowy Mountains Scheme in southern NSW.
Experience in Australia’s biggest hydro-electricity and irrigation project led to a career in driving and selling earth-movers through Victoria and NSW,
In 1968 Peter and his young family moved to Townsville. He won civil engineering projects throughout the north in the 1970s. Later, he and his wife, Ann, leased and operated service stations in Townsville and the Burdekin.
In 1972 he helped form the Townsville Marathon Club, forerunner of the Townville Road Runners. For years members trained on runs from the Lahiffs’ place. In 1973 he hit the wall in the inaugural NQ Marathon but never looked back. He ran another eight Townsville marathons in following years with a personal best of 2:52:33 in 1976.
In 2001 at age 65 he launched into ultramarathons and broke 17 Australian track and road records in the next five years. Two still stand, both set at Gosford in 2006, in the men’s 70 to 79 years’ division — furthest distance in 12 hours (100.634km) and fastest 100km (11:53:13).
Peter always swore by “two fruit, five veg’’ and advised his eight grandchildren to follow suit.
Tahran Lahiff recalled at his grandfather’s funeral on December 24 having
once asked him how to achieve high marks and become as smart as him — expecting “two fruit, five veg.’’ Instead Peter replied, “Listen to your teachers and do all your homework.’’
Tahran continued, `I feel this encapsulates the true spirit of Papa. Strong as an ox, fit as a draught horse and ultimately sharp as a tack. As Papa aged, his zest for life didn’t once waver.’’
Pictured: Peter Lahiff.
From AURA President Ewan Horsburgh and Tia Jones
Looking back at the records it is very impressive to see how many age group records Peter achieved during his ultra running career.
We have looked at the current AURA age group records and can confirm that he still holds two of his age group records, namely the 100km M70 where he ran 11:53:13 in Gosford in 2006 and the 12hr M70 where he ran 100.634km also in Gosford in 2006.
Peter was also the AURA Points Competition winner in 2005 and 1st M70-79 2008 Six Foot Track in 6:39.