Tim Berrett goes for his seventh World Cup race walk in La Coruña tomorrow morning, but that’s not the Canadian race walker’s ultimate goal.
The 41-year-old, originally from Tonbridge in England, hopes he will eclipse the longevity of Jan Zelezny’s record eight World Championship appearances when the 50k walker toes the line in Osaka next year.
If he makes Beijing two years on it will be the former British junior record holder’s fifth Olympics as well.
Nobody in the Spanish port has been to as many majors as Berrett, and when you take into account his two Commonwealth bronzes, the big question is why he still bothers when his original challengers are watching from the roadside?
“To improve,” is the short answer. It’s because he can is the hidden truth. One of the Canadian’s delights on seeing the flat, scenic course for the World Cup was the fact there was a children’s playground slap bang in the middle of the 2k loop.
It means Berrett’s two young children will be able to frolic on the slides when watching Dad loses its appeal after a few of the 25 circuits. Berrett’s training regime is just as meticulously planned.
A minute after he drops the children off at the sports centre close to his home in Edmonton in the middle of the Canadian winter, he is on a treadmill in an adjacent gym for two hours.
Two minutes after he steps off, he picks the infants up.
His wife Tara also gave up her life as a Canadian hockey international to help keep Berrett on the road.
He admits his work as a freelance economics research analyst has also allowed him to remain a professional race walker for 20 years.
Staying to complete the circle in 2012?
He said: “I’ll keep going as long as I can live with the world’s best fields, and it helps that my work kind of fits around it.”
It’s always been a standing joke between his friends that much-travelled from Tonbridge has never had a ‘proper job’ – but there again it says much he’s come back time and again for more four-hour slogs.
At the 1997 World Cup in Podebrady he crossed the line in 3:46:52 - a Canadian record. A minute later he was told by the chief judge his disqualification had rendered the 31 mile journey pointless.
There are some who have packed in the sport straight after – but not Berrett. In fact, it was another three years before he set his 20k best – 1:21:40, and another seven before he crossed the line in the 2004 IAAF Challenge at Tijuana in 3:50:20.
What about full circle for the 2012 Olympics when Berrett will be back on original home soil at the ripe old age of 47?
“Nothing’s been ruled out,” he reckoned with a completely straight face.
Paul Warburton for the IAAF