Caversham club still dear to Payne’s heart

Tony Payne trains at the Caledonian during a recent visit to Dunedin. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Tony Payne trains at the Caledonian during a recent visit to Dunedin. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Tony Payne might be running for another country, but he never forgets his roots.

The former Dunedin marathon runner grew up in the city training alongside New Zealand long-distance runners Callan Moody and Caden Shields, who Payne described as some of the country’s best.

Payne, who now represents Thailand — he is eligible through his mother — said he almost took it for granted at the time, not realising how rare it was to train alongside his great mates and how special his Caversham club was.

"I wouldn’t be doing this sport if it wasn’t for Caversham," Payne said.

He was back in Dunedin last week visiting family, and spent a great deal of time training at the Caledonian Ground, where he ran into former coach Dave Stinson, in preparation for a 10km event in Paris next Friday and the London Marathon on April 21.

Growing up in Dunedin, Payne (35) went to King’s High School and studied at the University of Otago before moving to Auckland and later London, where he now resides.

After representing New Zealand once, Payne found the New Zealand Olympic Committee had a tougher selection policy than most and he did not see a pathway for him in the sport.

Instead, he made the switch to Thailand and represented it at the Asian Games in Jakarta in 2018 and holds the national marathon record.

He finished third at the South Easy Asian Games, in Hanoi, in 2021 and finished 22nd at the London Marathon, but Covid has disrupted most of his running in the past few seasons.

He had also been hindered by a serious stress fracture in his pelvis.

Before Covid, Payne had been a fulltime athlete but he had since began working as an E-sports lawyer.

He and his partner, Julia Blacker, got married and have a daughter, Arabella, 5 months.

That led to one of Payne’s best recent memories competing at the Tokyo Marathon on the way to New Zealand.

"My wife was holding up the baby at 35km so I could see her," he said.

"It’s one of my favourites — gave me a wee boost towards the finish."

It was the first marathon he had finished in the past two years and he ran 2hr 21min, which he was pleased with considering a "newborn handicap".

The Olympic marathon standard was too hard for Payne to reach now, and the field had been cut in half, so that opportunity was unfortunately gone, but he still wanted to represent Thailand.

He plans to race at the South East Asia Games in Bangkok next year and has his eye on the Asian Games in the future.

Running has always been a big part of Payne’s life and he wants to continue as long as he can.

"As I’ve gotten older I’ve now recognised that it’s my way of self regulating and keeping me sane.

"It’s like the central pillar of my day and I can decompress and it’s also blessed to have a little bit of talent, so I feel like I should keep going before I slow down."