Bravehearts to take on ‘monster’
THE ELB Washie 100-miler “road to hell” turns 40 this year, a huge achievement for an idea that began over beers at the pub.
Lionel Whitfield wanted to honour his father, nicknamed Washie, and that is how the race came about.
For the 40th year, Marion Kelly, the granddaughter of Washie himself, will start the race at 5pm at the Halyards Hotel in Port Alfred after the traditional Highway to Hell by rock band AC/DC is played to put some fear into the already nervous runners.
The GO! & Express are the media sponsors of the event for the second year in succession.
This year, the field exceeds 80 runners who will be at the mercy of darkness, cold, and even loneliness, and will be counting on their fitness, mental toughness and their seconds (people helping runners on the road) to get them through the gruelling 160km from Port Alfred to East London.
The athletes range in age from their early 20s through to their 60s, each adamant they will conquer the goal they have set for themselves.
Many athletes find out about this race through word-of-mouth from other athletes who use the Comrades Marathon as a training run, and then put the Washie on their “bucket list” a year or two later.
Entrants this year include a husband-andwife team, a father-and-son team, international athletes and those who are raising funds for their favourite charity – making up “quite a fun and quirky bunch,” organisers said.
Eric Wright, 61, and Butch Duffey will be coming back for their 26th Washie finish – that is a lot of mileage.
The father-and-son pair of 64-year-old Cyril Bekker, the old- est Washie runner this year, and son Desmond Bekker, 41, also have some mileage between them.
Cyril, who will be running in the colours of Gonubie Harriers, has done 17 Comrades and 14 Two Oceans Marathons and ran his only Washie 23 years ago, while son, Desmond, runs for city rivals Buffalo City Metro Athletics Club and has three Comrades and three Two Oceans finishers behind his name.
“We are also avid ultra-trail runners. Desmond did three Hobbit 100km runs in Hogsback and twice did the Wild Coast Ultra 270km, six-day race from Port St John’s to Nahoon, and together we have done numerous road ultras from the Bruintjieshoogte 50km to the Legends 68km,” Cyril said.
Buffs legend Duffey said he was only returning this year because he heard his old adversary, Wright, was coming to do his 26th Washie.
“I heard Eric Wright was coming to do his 26th Washie and couldn’t let him beat me because we are both on 25 Washies.
“I always wanted to achieve 25 Washie finishes, especially as a Buffs runner in our own event, so I achieved that last year and was done. But I had to return to equal Wright,” Duffey said.
The Washie legend had some advice for the first-timers too, saying that fitness alone won’t cut it in this event.
“You can be how fit, if you don’t have heart and grit to fight it out then you will never finish ‘the monster’. This is not the Comrades or Two Oceans, it’s ‘the monster’,” Duffey said.
The seconding crew is of utmost importance to runners, keeping them safe, motivated, fed and nourished, correctly dressed and providing medical treatment if necessary.
The first runner is due at the Buffs Club in East London at about 7.30am on Saturday.
Keep updated with live feeds on www.tracking.washie100miler.co.za
The Buffs Club will be open all day for spectators to enjoy a meal and some liquid refreshment, and watch these amazing men and women as they cross the finish line. — Additional reporting by GO correspondent
‘Eric Wright and Butch Duffey will be coming back for their 26th Washie’
STEEL GRIT: Gabriel Kriel from Born 2 Run East London makes it up the final stretch to the finish at Buffalo Park during last year’s Washie 100-miler last year. His second (helper), Izak Kruger, in white, helps motivate him to keep going to the end of the gruelling 160km event