Washie is mad­ness ... I’m hooked

This 100 mile event is truly the tough­est race around in SA

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

SO MUCH for the Com­rades Marathon be­ing South Africa's Ul­ti­mate Road Race! Ever heard of the Washie 100 Miler? I bet not many peo­ple have I hadn't un­til I very re­cently when I started run­ning a cou­ple of years ago. And I had no ink­ing of just how tough a race it was un­til this week­end. No, I did not run the Washie at least not yet The Washie is a 160km race from Port Al­fred to East Lon­don. And, un­like the Com­rades Marathon. It is not tele­vised and does not en­joy any form of pub­lic­ity.

You mainly get to know about it be­cause you know some­one who is par­tic­i­pat­ing.

That though is but one of the many dif­fer­ences be­tween the races.

For whereas Com­rades run­ners en­joy in­cred­i­ble of­fi­cial sup­port rang­ing from nu­mer­ous wa­ter points through en­thu­si­as­tic crowd back­ing to med­i­cal aid that even in­cludes mas­sages, there’s no such at the Washie.

Ev­ery run­ner has to have his or her own sup­port through­out the road. Crazy right?

No won­der then that the Washie does not at­tract lots of run­ners.

This year’s race had 83 com­peti­tors com­pared to the about 16 000 who lined up at the start of the 87.6km Com­rades from Dur­ban to Pi­eter­mar­itzburg early in June.

I knew three of those 83 par­tic­i­pants, two of them be­ing my club-mates at the Fat Cats Ath­letic Club.

The trio com­pleted the race in which com­peti­tors are given 26 hours – from Fri­day 5pm to the nex day at 7pm – to fin­ish. Yes, 26 hours.

Who in their right mind runs for a day and two hours?

Well Afrika Tau and Thu­lani Mbele (my club­mates) plus Siphokazi Men­ziwa (of Born to Run) where among those peo­ple who surely are a few sand­wiches short of a pic­nic.

Afrika for one im­me­di­ately gives the im­pres­sion of a crazy guy. He runs all his races in a pink tutu and is as loud as they come. But what a guy! His runs raise funds for the Pink Drive, a char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion that raises funds in the fight against can­cer. And this is why.

“I started run­ning af­ter a health scare last Au­gust when my doc­tor told me to get on chronic med­i­ca­tion for high blood pres­sure and chole­strol or change my life­style im­me­di­ately. “I chose the lat­ter so I lit­er­ally run for my life. “I have al­ways had a pas­sion for char­ity work but last year I lost two friends younger than 40 to can­cer and that’s how I started to run for the Pink Drive and wear the tutu, a very tough de­ci­sion.”

His is an in­cred­i­ble story of what the hu­man body is ca­pa­ble of and he is per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of the adage ‘any­thing is pos­si­ble if you set your mind to it’.

Afrika ran his first 25km and it was be­cause he missed the turn off for the 15km run and ended up run­ning the ex­tra five kilo­me­tres.

“I was just fol­low­ing the run­ners and got told late that I had taken the wrong turn. I de­cided to just com­plete it, even if I walked.”

That spirit saw him move up to the marathon and then de­cide to go big within a year and chose to do both the Com­rades and the Washie.

In his inim­itable way he chal­lenged us (about three weeks ago) to join him at the Washie, and Thu­lani – a good run­ner who had a night­mar­ish sec­ond Com­rades where he fin­ished af­ter 11 hours – in­cred­i­bly took the bait as though he was go­ing for a 10km jog.

It was an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence fol­low­ing them through­out the race this week­end as they up­dated us of their progress through­out, At one stage Thu­lani had to take a 40 minute nap hav­ing also had to change his shoes and get his feet mas­saged.

But they both per­se­vered and com­pleted the race in 24h44 min­utes and 25h15 min­utes re­spec­tively.

To say they have in­spired a lot of run­ners would be an un­der­state­ment. And go­ing for­ward, you can bet the Washie is go­ing to be the ul­ti­mate road race for many a road run­ner – this one in­cluded.

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