Like father, like son – with 47 seconds between them

FAR from the comforts of his office chair, Philip Whistler from Meroo Meadow tackled a climb not for the fainthearted earlier this month.

A true lover of the steepest of mountains, the 62-year-old local radiologist met with the 875-metre peak of Mount Gower on Lord Howe Island on January 5.

The record holder of this epic 13km climb, Whistler’s feat was to be challenged by his own blood.

Son Ollie Whistler, a professional triathlete, said breaking his father’s record had been on his to-do list since he was a young boy.

“I beat it by 47 seconds,” Mr Whistler jnr said.

He said it was even better to have his father finish second, close behind him at two hours and seven minutes.

“He did that with a bad calf as well – not bad at 62,” he said.

“He is definitely a role model for me. He introduced me to the triathlon when I was growing up. Dad has always been into athletics.”

Mr Whistler jnr said he was honoured to have been involved in the race.

“I grew up on the island and I would hear the stories of the pig hunters and the mountaineers who would unofficially set the fastest times and I was there when my father broke the record in 1995,” he said.

“I’m a professional triathlete and I’ve done many races overseas and here, but this was a lot more of a spiritual event for me.

“There are about 350 people who live there on the island and I’m sure they were all there at the finish line, most of them family and all of them friends.”

Dr Whistler snr joked that even though his son broke his record, he was in better shape at the finish line.

“It was a bit of an epic day. As it turned out, coming across the finish line, I was more under control than [Ollie] was,” he said.

“I think he pushed through to the end out of his enthusiasm for the race.

“There hasn’t really been an official attempt to break the record since 1995.”

Mr Whistler jnr said he was delirious for most of the race and certain he had failed at breaking the 19-year record even after crossing the finish line an hour and 40 minutes later.

“I’d had a chest infection the week before the race. I knew within the first two kilometres I was going to have a tough time. I’ve never pushed my body to that extreme,” he said.

“Once I reached the top I was well and truly exhausted and I had to stop a few times to give my body a rest. 

“On the way down I was delirious, I don’t remember that part of the race and I thought I was behind the record but I wanted to finish out of respect.”

Even as a child, Mr Whistler jnr would think about his father’s record because he grew up living and breathing the mountains.

“It’s a huge part of my life and one of the main reasons and motivations for me to do the event. The other reason for me doing it was to help inspire the next generation to show them how important it is to maintain their health and fitness. The race brought the community together and that’s really special to me,” he said.

“It’s not so much running the mountain that was amazing to me, it’s just to be at the base of it and look up at it. It’s like something out of Jurassic Park and is a utopian place.”

Dr Whistler snr said he was “totally chuffed” his son had broken the record.

“I think he’s been contaminated by my own enthusiasm for the race. It’s a hard slog, there had been rain and it was a treacherous and slippery climb,” he said.

Dr Whistler snr said his wife Michelle had the best day of all the challengers.

“My wife set a great record for the females of two hours and 30 minutes,” he said.

“Despite the wet conditions, this was a personal best for her by over 10 minutes.”

The family now plans to continue the nostalgia of the race in a biannual event. 

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