The Latest Sorry Sordid Secret Saga of Marathon Running Shoes

Disclaimer: As apposed to my brother Dean, I should be the long distance runner in the family.  I, in my callow youth, was short, wiry and ornery (but mostly just went my own way).  Suddenly one day in standard 9 the ugly duckling became a ‘swan’.  From always being on the ground in the annual class photographs I suddenly found myself in the second row – heady times.  In Matric, I proudly took my place alongside all those guys in the back row who had played rugby lock their whole lives – traditionally reserved for the tallest while the coach struggled to find a position where he could hide me.  I might have got tallish, but I never got broad, let alone broadish.  I left Varsity a tad under 6 ft and weighing in at 73kg.  By the age of 55 I had put on weight – I weighed 75kg.  I was long distance material – rangy and still a bit ornery.  Dean, my elder brother by 4 years, was not the archetypal long distance runner.  He was an inch or two shorter than me and struggled with his extra poundage for his whole life.  In addition, a very, very septic burst appendix (caused by our sister Cheryl, a tough little shit of note, giving him a voltruis skop in the right side when he was 10 or 11) ensured that his 6- pack, if he could get one, was ripped to pieces by the aggressive surgery resulting in a recurrent stitch when running.

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The Circle of Running Life

Perhaps I can be accused of having a starry-eyed love affair with road running, the mistress in my life. It is not dissimilar from the love of a soul mate, the love of one’s very being, that passion which evolves over the years until one attains that pinnacle of that love. In the case of road running, this peak is the Around the World Challenge [RTW Challenge].

Why is this so?

Main picture: Eleven of the thirteen finishers of the Around the World Challenge as at June 2017. Back row: Des Robbins, Paul Selby, Dean McCleland, Peter Darroll. Middle row: Lesley Vermeulen, Ric Marini, Sue Darroll, Frik di Preez. Front row: Kosie van Vuuren, Neels Vermeulen

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Could South Africa learn from Road Running?

Today’s race at the National Botanical Gardens in Pretoria was no exception. Again I was surprised by what I learned except that it was not from a South African but a foreigner who has been in South Africa for only nine months.

One is not accorded a special status in road running. All runners are equal. Unlike the public discourse which is characterised by divisive racism, violent political rhetoric and the politics of rage especially by the EFF, road running does not suffer from these travails.

Main picture: The entrance to the Willows resort in Port Elizabeth. Instead of inserting some arbitrary pictures onto this blog, I have included photographs of Willows Resort near Port Elizabeth because as youngsters we spent many an Easter Holiday there.

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The Rand Athletic Club 10km Race on 15th May 2016

In his heyday, I recall Bruce Fordyce declaring in his non-dilettantish almost boyish way that once the cosmos appeared, winter was nigh and it was time to peak for Comrades. His fragile figure belied his steely determination, his steadfast conviction and his obsessive focus on the minutia of winning the Comrades. Moreover with his urbane charm, he bewitched the South African public and seduced a nation with his self-deprecatory charm.

 On the other hand, for me it was not the sudden emergence of this herbaceous perennial plant which made an impression but rather it was the annual RAC 10km run a week before Comrades. Almost like a cathartic release, it signalled the end of the Comrades taper but more importantly, a heightened awareness of the daunting task shortly at hand.

Main picture: Instead of the usual field of 3000 runners, it was a field in the hundreds which pitched courtesy of the inclement weather Continue reading

Assessment of the Cradle of Humankind 21km race on 27th April 2016

Since the Krugersdorp Road Runners Club relocated their race from Central Krugersdorp to the Kromdraai / Sterkfontein Caves area over a decade ago, this race has definitely been one my favourite races. It is a genuine country run without the traffic flashing past at great speed. The undulating hills interspersed with game farms including a well-known lion farm provide an additional incentive to participate in this race. Again we were not disappointed as a liger was visible.

Main picture: Prior to the start, a hot air balloon silently floated over. All pictures by Margie Asprey Continue reading

The 52km Rhodes Mountain Race – Saturday 12th July 1997

The Rhodes Mountain Race has to be amongst the toughest and most unusual races in South Africa. Restricted to 80 entrants, the one aspect that makes it unique is that this is known for its snow. Run from the hamlet of Rhodes on the Eastern Cape side of the Drakensberg Mountains, at the 32km mark it passes Tiffendal, South Africa’s only ski resort. The selection of the date was deliberately made to co-incide with the likelihood of snow.

On my first attempt, I was not to be disappointed as the snow was at least a metre deep at the top.

This is the story of that odyssey together with John Mostert

Main picture: Between Mavis Bank and Tiffendal. Underfoot it was mushy with melting snow and slippery mud

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Bob and I

Of course I am not referring to the President for Life north of South Africa. Somebody less well-known but for me as a youngster he was “famous.” On three occasions he was runner-up to Bruce Fordyce on the South African version of the rite of passage, the purgatory of the Comrades Marathon. His name is Bob de la Motte. For people of my generation, the Comrades Marathon held a fascination unlike any other sport as South Africa was besotted and enthralled in equal measure by this long distance odyssey. For one day a year, all South Africans would be glued to their TV sets as the runners battled it out over 90 kilometres of the most arduous road race in the world.

Having never met Bob de la Motte how can my Opinion Piece be entitled Bob and I? Having recently read his autobiography – The Runaway Comrade – which is partly biographical and partly a social commentary of the milieu in which South Africa existed at the time, I was struck by so many similarities in our upbringing and life experiences.

Main picture: Bob de la Motte being congratulated by Bruce Fordyce, his nemesis. In any other era, Bob de la Motte’s finishing times would have accorded him a win. What Bob did was to force the indominitable Fordyce to greater feats.

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Trail Run in the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy

Trail Runs are not my favourite form of running for two reasons: Invariably I trip and fall and secondly because, unlike road running, one can never get into a steady stride. As such, it is a case of changing gears all the time which is tiring. However it does have some advantages such as viewing some of the stunning places within less than an hour’s drive from Joburg.

This morning’s 15km trail run was held in the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy just off the R511 to Pretoria. Starting at a drug rehabilitation Centre called Netso Plaas – Just so Farm – the owner must be a Rudyard Kipling fan as Kipling is famous for his Just So stories.

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