Queensburgh Harriers Mineshaft 15km

By Matthew Dray

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I was close to bailing for Mineshaft on Sunday morning.

Saturday night’s weather wasn’t very encouraging, I’d just had Flu and I was hoping my sister Amanda would be the one to cancel. She didn’t.

We ended up on a cold Sunday morning at the race just before the 6am start. Before I began running I’d heard other runners say it was all worth it once you were on the road, but thought they were in denial. How could you be happy getting up at 4am, to get ready for a run in the rain? I was wrong, it truly is fantastic once you’re there! People get different things out of their run, but whatever it is for you, it’ll keep you coming back if you run a few races.

Although the race wasn’t too long, it wasn’t an easy 15kilometres. There are a lot of hills through Queensburgh and I ended up walking on quite a few of them. The marshalls and supporters helped us through the tough parts, and it’s great to know people young and old, are willing to be there just to help us. Just under 500 people showed despite the weather, and I think those who didn’t ended up with some serious FOMO, especially after it stopped raining before the start.

My final time was 1:18:41 which I was happy with even though a walker beat me (I’ve learnt to accept this). Before I started running I couldn’t do 3km without my heart racing and definitely didn’t consider myself a runner. I started training properly in January and the Tuesday and Thursday runs plus Gillies have helped improve my times.

At the finish the Stella guys were in high spirits with no casualties. The tent was there despite needing a rescue by Neville on Saturday night during the mini cyclone. Although the Harriers bacon egg roll wasn’t up to a Sean Mullins one, the organisers did a pretty good job with all the extras.

There were some decent prizes but Stella members only left with a case of water and R500 off of a GHD straightening iron. Don’t worry guys, I’m sure we’ll have better luck next time.

I’d like to thank the Stella team for their motivation and commitment. There are a lot of people behind the scenes setting up tents, sorting out beers and braais and making sure that the club functions. You guys are great.

I’m happy to say I now consider myself a runner, and I haven’t given up. The result is a happier and healthier person who now enjoys a 4am wake up to run in the rain. I’d encourage everyone to do it.

Dazed dreams

By Sandy Mullins

Sandy Mullins Comrades 2017

Dealing with disappointment as a runner is often a bitter pill to swallow. We all dream of running well, and getting to the finish line with a smile on the face. So much time and effort goes into preparing for a race. It’s months of pounding the tar, getting up early, watching your diet, making sure you don’t get sick or injured. We invest a large portion of our lives in various forms, yet race day arrives and you can’t run, or you start and everything goes pear-shaped.

This year for me, in particular was one year that didn’t go to plan. I was on track for my 7th Comrades in a row. Why not – I was strong, healthy, injury free and invincible at the start of the year. But life happens and various factors contribute to the mixing pot. Work stress did not help, and it is amazing how stress can impact on your body. I found I was sluggish and generally offbeat. My passion for running took a dive and I literally plodded through each week, trying to encourage others but with nothing in me for myself. Then injury set in and when I should have been piling on the mileage, I was willing my body to heal by “resting”. Mentally this put me on the back foot, and though I had clocked up the kilometers by the start of June, I did not have confidence in myself.

Another fear became a reality when two weeks before Comrades, my throat was sore, my body aching and I thought, this can’t be happening to me! I rushed off to the doctor to get a quick fix which masked it, but definitely did not disappear.

There are four factors that affect race day. Fitness, mental strength, nutrition and weather. If not in sync you are in for a challenge. Weather, you can’t influence but you prepare accordingly. By race day you should know what you can and can’t eat or drink to nourish the body to the end. Fitness and mental preparedness is up to you and the effort put in during the year will now be put to the test.

Saturday night before Comrades, I went to bed still not a hundred percent and very unsure of myself. I got to the start line with my running partner, and I prayed that this journey would finish positively in Pietermaritzburg.  It was hot AGAIN, and we set off not needing any extra clothing. Every step I took, I tried to motivate myself and say it would get better, my sluggishness would dissipate, and like the past few difficult up runs, I’d pull through. Right? Wrong. You know that you shouldn’t drink at every station, but it was so warm, I would take a water offered me and drink a mouthful then pour the balance over my head. I was so scared of cramping again as in the year before, that I took electrolytes every half hour. After half way my tummy started to talk to me and I wasn’t feeling too good.  Then the wheels fell off. I couldn’t keep up with my friends. I could see we were all battling, but that didn’t help. I made a pit stop, and my tum exploded. Any nutrition in my system was now nonexistent. I got to the mosque past Inchanga and I knew I was in trouble. My legs had nothing in them and I started to walk more than run. I bumped into a friend and as we walked on, I felt a wave of nausea hit me. Horror of horrors, I had to stop on the side of the road and hurl. I had become one of those runners – I thought this would NEVER happen to me. I had nothing left and knew my race was over. I got to the start of Harrisons and bailed. At the time I knew if I had continued, I would have been taken off in an ambulance!

Talking to many non-finishers afterwards, the disappointment of not finishing was great. All of us went into depression, we over analysed the day trying to justify our decisions, and how one could have done things differently. A sense of absolute failure hits you as you listen to your mates recall their success, and though you are delighted for them, you want to scream!!!

Then a running mate told me how I had told him that there is no failure in bailing – there is always another chance! I had to take my own advice, snap out of my self-pity and move on!! It is a tough pill to swallow, but hopefully I am a deeper person because of it. Life has many a curved ball, and it’s how we catch the ball that makes a difference. I know I voice what many an athlete has been through in some form or another, and it is the journey of life, symbolic an every way. There is another day, another opportunity, and together we will get to the finish line with a smile on the dial! I’ll be back!!

SAPS Striders Heritage Challenge – More than just a Half-Marathon

By: Bronwyn Blades

I ran this race as my first ever half- marathon in September 2015, under a temporary license and always wanted to come back and do it again. Having recently joined Stella Athletic Club, and under the watchful eye of Dave in his Running Newbies group, I decided I was ready to take on the half-marathon again this year.

The registration process was somewhat disorganised, over both Friday and Saturday, which lead to many questioning how things were going to go on race day. However, Sunday morning dawned overcast and quite warm by comparison to recent weeks. The race venue, Kings Park Athletic Stadium, was well laid out and Dave, Sean and Sandy had put up the Stella Gazebo ahead of time. We noticed though that there didn’t seem to be as many participants as in previous years, which was disappointing considering that this race is flat and fast, and should therefore be accessible to most runners.

I was nervous lining up at the start, realising that this was quite a bit further than I had run recently. The race was a two lap event, starting in Masabalala Yengwa Avenue, doing a short loop on that road, before heading down to the beach front via Blue Lagoon. The turning point was along the beach promenade, just past the SAPS police station. For me, it was quite tough mentally to know that I had to do the same lap twice – I think I prefer a point to point race. Dave was a star! He kept a steady pace, encouraged me along the way and just kept me going. I am not sure I would have made it without him but I was so delighted to finish!

This race was always going to more than just a half-marathon to me. Shortly after I ran it in 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I finished treatment last year and since then have been determined to get back to where I was in 2015. So for me, Sunday represents a milestone. I am two years older, a little heavier, and probably a lot slower – but I am back. Healthy, happy and on the road again.

Thank you Stella for being so welcoming and supportive and especially to Dave – I couldn’t have done it without you!

Chesterville 10km Challenge, Durban’s Toughest 10km

By:Amanda Botes

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Stella Stars at the end of the Chesterville 10km Challenge 

When my brother suggested we run the Chesterville 10km Challenge, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. The race is marketed as Durban’s Toughest 10km, but we had just done the Supa Mama Savages Race a few weeks back, so how tough could it be? Well, I was so wrong! The whole race was a series of climbs!

Starting off at the Chesterville Sports Ground, the route weaves through the very hilly suburbs of Chesterville and Westville. Even though the field was smaller than some of the other KZN races, the support from the residents, especially the children, on the road was amazing. People came out of their homes, some still with their pajamas on, to cheer us on with lots of the kids giving us high fives, we felt like superstars! The water tables and marshals were excellent and the atmosphere was just so vibrant. We even had a saxophonist playing the chariots of fire theme on the roadside!

There were loads of lucky draw prizes and free Wimpy cappuccinos at the end which was a real treat. The cherry on the top for me was coming third in the ladies category. Chatting to the race organiser at the end, he said that the race is in its fifth year and has grown significantly as perceptions of the area are changing. I would encourage all Stella Stars to run this race next year. It will be challenging but you will feel a great sense of accomplishment at the end as you would have conquered Durban’s Toughest 10km race.

Capital Climb – a very different type of race – more of an experience!!

By: Therese Hurly

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Therese, Margie and Anver at the end of Capital Climb

I had heard of the Capital Climb over the years (it started in 1976) and never thought of doing it, except that this year it was counting double points in the King & Queen of the Mountain race series.

The race is 15 km long, and starts from Voortrekker High School with a 6km stretch of steep road leading up the hill to World’s View. I never walk early in a race, but this road definitely called for it. It was tempting to turn off with the 5km Fun run group onto a flat road along the way.

Finally at the top, World’s View was as promised; beautiful forests of wattle and gum trees, and the southern Drakensberg Mountains in the distance. The fresh cool air made running along the flat farm type roads between the plantations a pleasure.

The low light was a 9km to go sign along the road – I couldn’t believe I had only run 6km. But for those injury free the rest of the run would have been the best and easiest 7-8 km ever. All downhill except for a few straights, I shuffled down very slowly, with lots of people passing me sprinting most of the way to the finish.

Even so the kms passed with minimal cardio effort. There were lots of social plodders and with no expectations but to complete the event, it was nice to chat and join in the country atmosphere. At 7km to go, people were offering sherry. I declined, but many, in the spirit of things, enjoyed them. Hopefully next year, knowing what it is all about I will be more prepared and enjoy the challenge even more.

The beauty of the Mandela Trail Run

by Kayla Hinchliffe

Now I finally understand the reasons behind all those – what I thought was crazy at the time – early mornings my parents have exposed me to in the past. The beauty of the country, the satisfaction of a run was why they did it.

My recent love for running has driven me to have my turn, waking up early and hauling my parents out onto the road and in the country for short races, something they used to do to me when I was younger. As my mom says – “it’s payback time”.

On Sunday, we left 15˚C Durban, thinking it was freezing, little did we know we were heading for a 6˚C start at the Mandela Trail Run. It was so special to be part of the start of this race hosted by KZN Trail Running. All dressed up in my layers and other warm gear we started the 8km Trail in the bitter cold.

The start of the trail presented a hill of note, with single file “walking” all the way to the top of the hill, but definitely worth the long walk, as we caught our first glimpse of the spectacular hills leading towards the Drakensberg.

The tables on the trail were exceptionally well-stocked with chocolate, chips, sweets, biscuits, coke and water and the marshals were super friendly.

The trail followed an undulating course through some farm land, a few more hectic hills and eventually headed back parallel to the N3 with the Mac trucks tooting their horns for the runners and down the treacherous hill from the start. This time, having to negotiate all the rocks and shrubs of grass on the way down – taking us to a very well organised and festive finish.

It was definitely an awesome event to be a part of and one I will be back for next year – hopefully conquering the 15km trail this time.

Mandela Day Marathon- An iconic race

By Kevin Hendrikse

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This year was the 6th running of the Mandela Day Marathon. It is a marathon steeped in history that commemorates our late President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. It starts in Imbali, where Mandela made his last speech as a free man and ends 42km later where he was captured by the security police in 1962. The race also offers a 21km, 10k and trail run. Once again, many Stella runners, wearing their green and gold journeyed along the freedom route.

The first 21km is tough and arduous, where after 9km you start a 11km ascent up the notorious struggle hill. Step by step you are cheered up the relentless climb until you reach the half way point. Many are broken at this stage but you know you have the worst part of the race behind you. The second half of the race is much easier and undulates through the beautiful rolling hills of the Midlands. With the backdrop of the iconic Nelson Mandela Capture monument you reach the finish line. This race is definitely a race that you will remember. Well done to all the “comrades” that battled and triumphed through the marathon. A special mention to Kanyiso, Alastdair and Siya for all completing the marathon in under 3 hours!

Stella Star in the Spotlight- Nkosinathi Ngcongo

By Amanda Botes

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Nkosinathi Ngcongo running at this year’s Comrades Marathon (Image Source: KZN Runners Photography)

Nkosinathi Ngcongo, this year’s recipient of the Stella Chairman’s Award, has run 13 consecutive Comrades Marathons, eleven of which he has received silver medals for. Nkosinathi’s fastest Comrades was in 2014 where he ran 6h25, and best Two Oceans was in 2012 in a time of 3h46.

This Stella Star grew up in Port Shepstone Ezinqoleni where he enjoyed karate at Inanda Secondary School. When he started working Nkosinathi didn’t have the time to train with the karate group and so decided to give running a try. He enjoyed it so much that he entered Comrades in his very first year of running and has not looked back!

Nkosinathi first ran for Athletics North KZN and Harmony Gold before joining Stella in 2008. He has received silver medals for all ten Comrades he has run for Stella and has been awarded his green number. When asked about his best running memory, Nkosinathi remembers 2010 where he beat his personal best Comrades time by 51minutes, from 7h20 to 6h29!

His advice to new runners is to get fit, not rush things, and get enough mileage in before running long distances. He says that he made the mistake of running Comrades too early in his running journey and didn’t have enough experience at the time.

Nkosinathi enjoys running for Stella because it is a supportive club, especially on Comrades day as Stella provides tables along the route which he appreciates. Nkosinathi especially mentioned Nigel, Alistair, Louise and Lorraine who have supported him over the years. Nkosinathi says that the toughest race he has done is the Zululand 56km and his favourite race is the Down Comrades. He would like to run a sub-6 hour Comrades in the future.

Nkosinathi works for iDube Safety and in his spare time enjoys listening to music and spending time with his wife and two little girls. Nkosinathi, you are an inspiration to all of us at Stella and we are so proud of you!

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Nkosinathi with some of his medals and his Comrades Marathon Green Number

Nkosinathi’s typical running week:
120-140kms every week.
Saturday- Long Run 40-50kms Easy
Sunday- 10km speed
Monday- Morning 8km, Evening 10km hillwork/cross-country
Tuesday- Morning 10km Easy, Afternoon Speedwork 800m x 8 or 200m x 25.
Wednesday-18km
Thursday – Morning 8km, Afternoon 12km
Friday- Rest

From Park Run to Twenty-one

by Marie-Claire Duncan

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Marie-Claire with some of the Stella Stars bus at the Durban Runner Challenge

This weekend I conquered my first ever 21.1 km half marathon by completing the Durban Runner Challenge in 2hrs and 18 minutes.

My transition from the occasional park run of five km to a half marathon was only made possible through joining Stella Athletic Club. The camaraderie, training runs, advice and support got me race ready.

I started the first lap of the race with the group, but fell back a bit in fear of running too quickly and tiring out. After completing the first ten km I saw some Stella Stars and caught up to them. This group made my run so awesome. We had our own trainer on the run, telling us when we could walk and when to push as well as sharing sweets with us. We had motivation, team spirit and no runner was left behind. Running into Port Natal School with the Stella Bus was a great feeling!

Overall the race was a great mixture of hills and flat stretches, with semi-road closure and plenty of water tables. But most of all the race was my first half marathon and a race I’ll never forget.

“Twinkle twinkle Stella Star, please be visible from afar!”

Safety Tips from Road Captain Sandy Mullins

Road running is great fun, especially when we run as a club, at training runs, races or even alone, but there are running laws to adhere to for one’s safety. There have been too many incidences of late, and for new runners as well as experienced runners, it’s good to be reminded of running etiquette and safety.

  • Always run facing oncoming traffic so that you and drivers are aware of each other. The only time it is advisable to run with the flow of the traffic is if there is a foot path on that side only. We don’t need to play dodgem cars and chicken!
  • You need to be able to hear what is going on around you. Avoid running with headphones. If you really have to listen to music when you run, turn it down and only wear one ear piece, so that you can be aware of your surroundings. Most races do not permit the use of headphones.
  • “Light and bright at night”! Especially during winter, you need to be visible! MIB’s (Men in Black) might be cool, but you are not visible! These days you get really great running tops that are reflective, and just plain white T’s are also advisable.
  • If you intend changing direction, cross a road, or come to an intersection make sure you signal clearly where you intend going. Often drivers are looking right to cross into a road you are in, they do not see you coming and many a runner has met a car by accident. Rather run around vehicles than presume that you have been seen.
  • Early birds and late runners need to be very aware of drivers who could be fatigued or under the influence. Some drivers have no respect for runners, and they own the road rather than share it. We too need to realise that we don’t have exclusive rights to the road either and should preferably run on the pavement.  Rather assume that all drivers are bad and have not seen you. Be safe not sorry!
  • Be courteous and acknowledge drivers who have made an effort to give way to your athletic efforts. Swearing and cursing drivers is a no no! We also have to honour our club – we want to draw people not chase them away!
  • If you are not well or intend to cut short, please let someone know so that runners don’t wait for a no show. We have had an incident where a new runner collapsed and it could have been serious if it were not for a guardian angel who came to her rescue. Run responsibly!
  • Sadly, these days, running alone is not always an option. There have been numerous accounts of runners being accosted, and some not so nice experiences. If you have no alternative, make sure you run in daylight and on roads that are popular to avoid unwanted company. Ideally join us at Stella or run with a mate, and make sure your route is known to the special people in your life.

These few simple points can make your running experience a lot more pleasurable. Lets arrive alive and in one piece, and come back for more tar therapy because we can!!