Having a goal or objective always serves as a great motivator whether it is at home, at work or in one’s sport. It always seems to compel one out of bed at 4am in the morning even on the coldest and wettest mornings.
Andre certainly needed one; and if truth be told, I did too. After running for 30+ years, Andre just went through the motions, so to speak, and had long since ceased to put any effort into his running.
All that Andre required was some spark, something to ignite that passion again & he found it in me. Having once been a formidable runner in his day, many years ago, he resented the fact that as a mediocre to middling runner, Myer & I lorded it over him at every race by convincingly thrashing him. Looking at our rotund anterior lumps of blubber, colloquially called not a six pack but a case of beers, goaded him on.
Ultimately, in disgust at the Tukkies 10km night race, his anger boiled over. He could abide the situation no longer. Andre stormed across, sternly glared at the two reprobates long since finished and threw down the gauntlet: The 20km Nedbank Matla Challenge in two months’ time at Pilditch Stadium.
With honour apparently satisfied, his face lit up as he strolled off.
As we were much fitter than Andre, neither Myer nor I took the Challenge seriously. As such no additional training would be done by either of us. Rather the approach was to merely expend addition effort on the normal weekend races.
As March approached, Andre steadily got faster. By mid-March, it would be touch-and-go whether we would beat Andre. The difference was marginal if not slightly tipped in his favour. The end result would be decided on the day.
For me, the solution was tactical. Never let Andre know where we were but at all times know how he was performing. This would rattle him as, without feedback, he would be running blind so to speak. He would be disconcerted.
But how was that to be done. Quite simple actually. Just run behind him all the way & then overtake him just before the finish. Like all great plans, they are simple to make but more difficult to execute.
On the day of the race, I spotted Andre mulling around at the start & let him enter the starting area ahead of me.
So far so good.
But now it became more problematical in that there were thousands of runners. With the lure of T-shirts & Goodie Bags, the Organisers had snared a huge field. As such one could easily lose sight of Andre which quickly happened in the maelstrom. Now we were blind as well.
Instead of letting Andre set the pace, we would be forced to adopt a fast pace from the start so as to ensure that he never set up a commanding lead. This consideration had to be balanced with the need not to blow. A fine balance indeed.
The first several kms were very flat as the stream of runners made their way from Pilditch Stadium to the foot of Potgieter Street. Ahead then lay the remorseless 6km hill past the Prison then taking a right turn up to the old Iscor Head Office. This would be a make or break time. Being a tad on the heavy side, hills are not my forte; hence the watchword had to be caution. In order to keep the heart rate within reasonable limits occasional walks had to be factored in as well.
Within one km from the crest of the hill, the unmistakeable lanky figure in a red running vest is spotted; most probably the elusive Mr Hydenryck. I pick up the pace but only marginally. We must not blow it now. Then Andre is gone.
Finally we are at Eeufees Road. It is now flat, the first time in 6kms. The pace quickens. My pulse races. The Challenge is now well & truly on. With Andre about a km ahead, we have to reclaim 1km over the next 10 kms i.e. 100 metres per kilometre.
Now our chance arises. Being downhill Racers of note with our front end loading, the pace quickly rises. As the slope becomes steeper, the pace quickens further. I request permission from Myer to begin the chase. I change down. Five minutes per km. Then down to four & a half minutes per km. I push even harder. Just before the right hand bend, my speedometer registers just over four minutes a km. Just before a speed wobble arises, I slow down. Maybe in my exuberance, I have shot my bolt. My breathing comes in long raking gasps. This is not good. Not good at all. With just over four kms left to go, how will I be able to maintain this pace? Myer is by now far behind. I slow down to 6 minutes per kay on the flat but still my breathing is rasping & irregular. A pall of gloom descends on me. Even a pace of 6 minutes per km is only attainable with the maximum effort. I have shot my bolt.
Finally a water table. I take two cups of Coke. Maybe the sugar injection will revitalise me. I need a sugar high. Instead I have the plods. Heaving & gasping I hobble on.
Then 20 metres in front of me appears a red running vest with two beautiful females running on either side. I blink once. I blink again. But still the visage of Andre remains in front of me. It is the elusive Mr Hydenryck ahead of me.
Tactics! What stratagem do I employ to overtake him? If I simply speed past him, he will simply run me right into the ground with his long legs. Something more subtle is required. By now I am only two paces behind him. I hear him reminiscing about some long forgotten race that they had apparently run together in the dim & distant past. Andre is enraptured on his trip down memory lane instead of focusing on the task at hand.
Here is my chance. I take it with both hands. This road through the industrial area has wide pavements with trees spaced intermittently. If I take a wide berth & run against the factory fences, there was a good chance that I will not be spotted.
It is my salvation.
Only when I approach the corner, do I veer back onto the road. Andre is 100 metres behind still engrossed in discussion. My impulse is to sprint but that will be my nemesis. Rather run slowly with consistency the key.
Under the green Nedbank one km to go balloon, down the next hill, around the corner & the Pilditch Stadium hoved into view. A quick glance over my shoulder reveals that Andre has not yet rounded the previous corner so I am safely home & dried.
He will also be remembered by me also for his encyclopaedic knowledge of history. Subsumed beneath the badly faded red Roodepoort Running Vest was a keen intellect. Being of a like mind, he & I would spend a whole race in absorbing conversation on some book that he had just read. With a sharp mind, he did not suffer fools gladly & even once reprimanded me for my illogical logic. Andre was correct of course & I openly acknowledged the fact.
That is how I chose to remember Andre: the consummate runner with the erudition & intellect to match.
Humble, phlegmatic & intellectual.
Other Articles on Running:
My Comrades Marathon: An Abiding Memory
My Comrades Debut and Swansong, all in one Race
My Running Redux
The Journey from Searing Back-Pain in late 2013 to Running Races again in Respectable Times
Poisoned Chalice or Fool’s Errand?
Report back the Dawn to Dusk 80km Running Race in August 2013
My Mid-Life Crisis: How did I attempt to regain my lost youth?
What did it take me to get over my mid-life crisis in my early forties?
Ashley Wood – In Memoriam
IoT: What impact will it have on Road Running?
The possibilities of the latest technology – the Internet of Things – are ruminated upon
A Drab and Unremarkable Race with Pretensions: Gauteng Sports Challenge
Gauteng requires a big city marathon on the scale of the London Marathon but the Gauteng Sports Challenge doesn’t fit the bill
A Running Experience: A Hill too Far
On this day, the Loskop 50km ultra marathon running race had one hill too many, Faraday’s Hill. It was to be my nemesis.
The First Time