Bob “Flying” Fickel warms up for his 252nd marathon

FLYING START: Veteran marathon runners Bob Fickel and Eric Schmierer are ready to hit the track in Blacktown again. Picture: Blacktown Council

FLYING START: Veteran marathon runners Bob Fickel and Eric Schmierer are ready to hit the track in Blacktown again. Picture: Blacktown Council

Bob Fickel doesn’t take any prompting to rattle off an impressive list of numbers.

Without hesitation, the 65-year-old runner can recall the time for his first ever marathon back in 1981, and even the times of his unofficial rival.

“My wife says I’m a numbers man,” he explains. "I collect numbers.”

The number that will matter on July 30 is 252 – that’s how many marathons ‘The Flying Fickel’ will have completed after his 12th M7 Marathon.

“Don’t tell my wife, but I’m aiming for 300,” Mr Fickel said. “I’ll keep going as long as I can, until my body says no more.”

FAMILY AFFAIR: Thomas, Mitchell, Emalee and Chelsea Olbrich of Rouse Hill will be running the five kilometre course again this year. Picture: Blacktown Council

FAMILY AFFAIR: Thomas, Mitchell, Emalee and Chelsea Olbrich of Rouse Hill will be running the five kilometre course again this year. Picture: Blacktown Council

The Blacktown Running Festival is not just for marathon runners, however, with four shorter races on offer in addition to the 42.195km Westlink M7 Cities marathon.

The half-marathon, 10km and 5km fun runs, and 2km kid’s marathon will all start from the Blacktown International Sportspark at Rooty Hill.

Four members of the Olbrich family from Rouse Hill will be running the 5km course together for the fourth time. They regularly train together at Hills District Athletics Club.

Dad Thomas said the main reason he runs is for the fitness and his kids.

“When my 18-year-old son first started he used to be behind me. Now he’s in front of me and the younger two are closer to me now too,” he said.

“It’s a good incentive for them. If this old man can do it, I can too.”

The runners, with Blacktown mayor Stephen Bali, are excited for the 12th annual Blacktown Running Festival on July 30. Picture: Blacktown Council

The runners, with Blacktown mayor Stephen Bali, are excited for the 12th annual Blacktown Running Festival on July 30. Picture: Blacktown Council

Emalee and Chelsea, aged 13 and 11, have taken after their older siblings through their interest in athletics. Emalee even ran the 14km City2Surf last year, a feat she said “felt good and painful”.

Their brother Mitchell, 18, has had three podium finishes in Blacktown’s 5km race, although his speciality lies in shorter distances. The young athlete won silver representing NSW in the 4x400m relay at the under-20s Australian Athletics Championships in March.

Despite the competitive edge, mayor Stephen Bali said the running festival is a great day for runners of all levels.

“There is a race for everyone from professional athletes to families and kids just having a go,” he said.

“We will be doing something special to recognise their achievement.”

Nearly 500 people have registered for the festival already, and entries are welcome on the day.

For more information or to register for any of the races, go to the Blacktown Council website.

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