Martins Escapades

by Andrew Martin

The final part of our adventure began on Friday the 2nd of August 2019. We wanted our final goodbyes to be a low-key affair, so we hired a car for a few weeks to eventually self-drive to the airport, my sister and a few close friends joined us for a cup of coffee, that was more than enough to try and emotionally handle.

The time trial braai/impromptu farewell at the club on Thursday the 1st was a nice gesture. Dave said a few words and it was done. Saying goodbye to those that were there after being at the club since 2007 did bring a tear or 2. I had made some incredibly special friends during the 12 odd years of running/socializing at Stella Running/Drinking Club. I think the continual laughs, camaraderie, club nights, socializing, oh…and running, will never be forgotten.

We landed at Heathrow on Saturday the 3rd, we were collected by a mate who put us up at his home in Windsor and then drove us down to the coast on Sunday.

As the universe would have it another mate was going on holiday and needed someone to house and dog sit for the week, we had use of their car so we could find a place to live, find work and buy a car. They were situated in Corfe Mullen, which was pretty close to Bournemouth, the city we had chosen to settle. The main reasons were that it was on the coast, close to the New Forest, a massive green belt in the south east and was in the southerly part of England. It has a supposedly micro-climate which differs from most of the UK as in a few degrees warmer and not as wet. Not quite Durban, I know.

Tanya had by chance connected up with an ex-Capetonian who was busy renovating a small apartment in Wimborne near Poole. It was almost complete and was offered to us for a nominal rental while she was busy renovating upstairs.

We had managed to buy a car, find a place to live and both had interviews by the time our mates got back from holiday. We moved in [to an empty apartment] and started work a week later. The universe works in mysterious ways. We subsequently moved upstairs to the larger apartment in February 2020.

Running had obviously taken a back seat while we tried to find our feet and get to grips with all the new systems and processes in a new country. We did walk…. a lot. We explored our little town which has a church that was built over 800 years ago. We are about 100m from the River Stour, so our walks were across open fields and along the river.

I had attempted a few runs, but the weather was closing in on us, days were getting shorter, it was getting cold, dark and miserable, so much easier to get home and read a book. We did walk most days though, apparently there is no such thing as bad weather in the UK, only bad clothing…ja right. They say your blood gets thicker with time…ja right…zero degrees is cold.

Fast forward to Spring, clocks get changed and almost immediately you sense happiness in the air, people are smiling, more friendly and the day light hours get longer.

I began to start running again, it was wonderful. I started slow and short and gradually built up to my goal of 5km. It is pretty flat where we live near the river so no real challenges.

We also cycled a lot, so much easier and could get to a lot more places. Cycling is huge in our town, most days we would see more cyclists than runners and walkers. I often cycled to and from work.

Summer had arrived with a vengeance…. daylight hours doubled. We bought a SUP [stand up paddleboard] as we were so close to the river and used it very often. We would get home from work, pack a bite to eat, some beers and take a walk down to the river and get back home close to 10pm, the river was busy and the weather warm. We would paddle upriver, find a ‘beach’ and have dinner and drift back down. Believe it or not there were some evenings it was just too hot and humid to run or paddle, so we packed a bag and sat under the trees and watched the world go by.

Summer here makes up for the dreary winter and there are four distinctive seasons. Autumn started peeping her head when the leaves began falling in late August and by late October winter was arriving. Soon December was here, and it was cold and dark again, but we had made a pact that we would continue running if it were not too windy or raining. So…when we got home, we got changed and hit the trail to do our 5km route along the river and through a bit of forest. We had got our winter running gear, gloves, beanie, lights and thermals. We saw foxes on the trail and a few other crazies. We had managed to run 19 times in December, and a few of those runs were in zero temperatures, before we had a major disruption in our lives.

I tested positive for the dreaded lurgy [Covid19] on January 1st, 2021 and Tanya on the 4th. Both felt like we had been hit by a bus. I went back to work on the 12th and Tanya on the 14th, we are still both fatigued but on the mend.

Running has taken a back seat for a while but I am sure we will start again soon…we have started walking longer distances in the meantime.

We were introduced to an activities group by another mate and they have an assortment of disciplines that various members do. In total there are over 1000 members.

We did a few group paddles on the river with them until the lockdown put a stop to it, they do mountain biking, road biking, wall climbing, orienteering, open water swimming, cliff walking, sea kayaking, road and trail running which are but some of the available activities. We will be joining them in a few when things ease, and the days start to get longer.

In closing, I often get asked if I miss South Africa, my answer is yes, of course, every day, to move to another country and leave everyone and everything you hold dear is huge…I miss family and friends terribly, but we chose to move, Robyn is thriving and loving it here and for that we are grateful. It may still take time for us to acclimatise and get used to life in another country, there are some good and not so good aspects about living here, but I believe it is all about attitude, embracing change and courage.

Hope the club goes from strength to strength in these testing times.

Kind regards

Andrew Martin

Running in the UK

by Glen Connell

For those that don’t know me, my name is Glen Connell. I am 48 years old and have been running for 42 of those years. I have run over 1200 races during that time. I ran for Stella for 31 years, DHSOB for 9 years. My family and I moved across to the UK in August 2018 and I now run for Maidenhead AC for the past 2 years.

Training runs at the club are mostly off road, and as somebody who hates running off road, means I don’t run with the club much, preferring to run by myself in the early mornings like I did in SA. After their training runs there is no cracking open a couple of beers, it’s tea/coffee and cake!!

Race entry fees are in the region of £25-£35 for a half marathon and £45-£50 for a normal marathon (Paris marathon about £90). Most races are organised by events companies and not clubs. Being a member of a club is not mandatory but you get a £1 or £2 discount if you do belong to a club.Around 50-60% of runners in most races are not members of a club. Starts are normally in waves of around 200-300 every few minutes, and times are taken from when you cross the line.

Races are marked in miles, but I don’t think I will ever get used to miles. I keep my watch on kms so that I can judge my pace better. Seconding tables are spaced about 5kms apart and have only water in sealed plastic bottles. Having to carry my own Coke or Lucozade Sport (Energade equivalent over here) is a bit of a pain, but I have got used to it.

At the end of races you are handed your medal , collect a piece of fruit and a bottle of water off the table, and off home you go, no club tents and hanging around socializing.

Running in winter has certainly been one of the things I have had to get used to, but I actually now prefer running in winter here than running during summer!! Although this has resulted in a few slips on icy roads and has resulted in some blood being shed..

I have run about 10 races in the 18 months between arriving in the UK and the time when races stopped in March when we went into our 1st lockdown. It’s going to be a while before races are going to be held again here, as races I entered for April/May last year were originally postponed until September/October, then postponed again until the same dates this year. These have all now been postponed again until September 2021 and who knows if things will allow races to happen by then, at least my entry and entry fee has been transferred to whenever the race next takes place. Holding thumbs the vaccine rollout here will be successful and will allow things to return to some sort of normal.

Before Covid there were lots and lots of races. On any normal weekend there would be at least 1or 2 races within a 30-35km radius from where I live (half marathons are huge in the UK), giving lots of options. The only thing I have not seen too many of is road ultra marathons. The off road/ trail running scene is also very big and popular over here.

The last year has been a challenging one in terms of trying to stay motivated and trying not to lose too much fitness. Trying to run 2 or 3 times a week.

Be thankful for the running scene in SA and Durban in particular, you have it good in terms of cost and value for money, race organisation, club scene and socializing.

Support the clubs and pay your membership fees,and ensure that they survive this period and come out the other side of this pandemic, otherwise the running scene will change and not necessarily for the better. Races will start again when it’s safe to do so. Stay safe and keep training.

On being a running expat . . .

From Simone Cullingworth – Auckland, New Zealand

When Sandy messaged and asked me to write some words for the blog – on being a running expat, the changes, experiences etc –  I didn’t bat an eyelid. I knew exactly what I was going to say. 

Running is my biggest source of connection – it connects me to my best memories in my life; it’s connected me to the best part of my days at present, and I know it’s a sure connection to my future. Connection is vital to anyone, but especially as a foreigner. Running has been mine. This is why I love it so much.

Running takes me back to most of my childhood  memories.  It was common to wake up at 3am to travel to an event and watch my Dad, uncle, and family friends run. Every year we’d drive overnight for the Two Oceans.  It may have just been a race, but that race facilitated happy memories with my family that I absolutely treasure. 

I’ve been running since single digits. I can still visualise school cross country routes and athletics tracks. I can hear school war cries; remember early morning training banter and conversations with people I still keep in touch with. 

Comrades Day every year on the side of Cowies Hill with the family – braaing, cheering, and teasing, especially “Florida Boys are pooftas!” Even my 16 year old son can remember this!

In adulthood, running with Stella brought lifelong friendships no matter where in the world we are now!  In NZ you don’t have to belong to a club to enter races, so therefore there are very few official run clubs.  I so regret not taking my Stella Kit because I’d be wearing it proudly if I had it.

Running in New Zealand once again has been the biggest connector to the best parts of my life here.  My first run in NZ was on a rainy day where no one would have been able to separate my tears from the pouring rain. Gary and I have used running events (its SO expensive to race here!)  to travel and see the country. I’ve gotten lost and discovered new roads and pathways but found my way home. I’ve sprinted myself breathless from pure pining and longing for family.   My solo runs connect me to my head and heart where I can pray, think and work it out  – I come home better. It brings depth and meaning.

The BEST part is that running has connected me to my bestest friends.  There’s no social run club culture in NZ so when someone says “i’m looking for someone to run with” or if I ask “do you run?” – well then there’s nothing left to say but “join us”.  

With these friends we’ve talked our lives out; we’ve laughed; cried;  stopped on the pavement to hug or pray and stopped to marvel at the sunrise.  Not forgetting saving people from fires, house floods, being shooshed because we are talking too loudly at 5am

These runs have made the roads of New Zealand feel like home.  

I don’t know what the future holds but I know that we can still run, and that is a connection not only for me, but I know for expats or actually anyone who feels lost or disconnected and needs hope.  I get excited knowing that we’re a part of and keep adding to a community through a walk or run.  I LOVE the excitement that comes when one connection leads to another and to another and to another.  One small step ripples through and keeps going along the road. 

I will always appreciate and love the sound of shoes hitting the road, whether few or many, at any pace, everyday or at an event. 

When the Byrds sing about a time to every purpose under heaven, I sing:

To everything (run, run, run)

There is a season (run, run, run)

This is my experience and this is why I love to run. Thank you to everyone who’s shared the road with me so far.  I look forward to crossing paths one day soon!

Chairman’s Chirp

Happy New Year to you all.

We have entered a year of great uncertainty on many fronts. I am going to focus on athletics though.

With no physical races since lockdown first started, I’m sure that you are all pretty frustrated. The bad news is that there is unlikely to be any races for at least the first half of the year. Some of the year’s biggest races have already been cancelled and I know only too well what such a decision does to these clubs. Stella like any club relies on its race to boost its coffers. The majority of this money is used to pay fixed monthly expenses and also cover certain events that are put on for the members. Without this money hard decisions will need to be made by all clubs. Stella AC will have the same problems as it will not be possible to put on our Stella Royal in early March. We have requested another date in the second half of the year but are yet to hear back from KZNA.

Our second biggest source of revenue is membership fees. Without this money it would be very difficult to run the club. I believe that as a club we need to stand together to ensure that Stella remains the strong club that it has always been. It is for this reason that I ask that you please renew your membership with the club and buy your licence for 2021. KZNA and ASA cannot run offices without the money received from such licences. If they cannot operate no services will be supplied to athletes or clubs. I see the licence renewal as a leap of faith to ensure that once we get through this pandemic that the sport that we love can quickly get back on its feet and offer the races that we all participate in.

The ASA and club membership forms are available on the Stella AC website. Please complete them, make the payment and send all necessary documentation to stellaathleticclub@gmail.com. If you have any questions, please address them to Pat Freeman at the above e-mail address. The membership fees remain unchanged from 2020.

Thank you for your time and your commitment to Stella AC. If you would like to discuss any of these issues with me, please message or phone me privately.

Regards Dave Beattie.

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

By Sandy Mullins

Road running is great fun, and especially when we run as a club, at training runs, races or even alone, there is a running law 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.

  • Always run into oncoming traffic, so that you and drivers are aware of each other. The only time it is advisable to run with 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 earpieces in your ears and music blaring in your brains. If you really have to, turn it down and only wear one ear piece, so that you can be aware of your surroundings. Most races do not allow it.
  • “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 is 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 have to either run in the verge or preferably 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.
  • With the challenges of Covid, be responsible and look after yourself and your running mates. Its not compulsory to wear a mask while training, but afterwards – be safe, not sorry!

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

Walkers and time trial league 2020 letter

By Mike Mostert

Well a long 2020 has come to an end…   As we all know been an tough one without any further mention

Now the Positives for 2020 for us walkers were as follows …. 

  1. No more Black and broken nails  
  2. Less aching muscles, especially the Gluteus Maximus region
  3. Less perspiration and rashes in all regions of our anatomy (no need for me to elaborate)
  4. No early mornings and hunting for parking close to the start line (you know who you all are)
  5. No pre-race nerves and butterflies
  6. No heat stroke and vest tans 

Now that I have added some ray of sunshine to my report, let me continue.

The Bi-weekly Stella walks once restrictions lifted and protocols were in place, and the Virtual Larson Mixed time trial league which the walkers Stella Stars team took part in, you can look at it from both sides positively and negatively. Not racing in the league and doing it remotely took the pressure of racing others athletes on the dark streets off, and on the other hand religiously partaking in the league remotely during Lockdown was tough on your own and to motivate yourself to get out there before month end and do your time. That did not stop walkers doing a personal best during the November time trial.

Thank you to the loyal walkers for continuing to do your times each month and submitting it to event-timing, Once lockdown restrictions lifted, at the October time trial we were able to do it as a group, followed by celebratory drink upstairs and November league along the promenade was followed by breakfast and the high-light was been joined by our esteemed Chairman and his better half.

The virtual Results as follows,

Stella A came 2nd in the league with 3 points separating The Stella ‘A’ Stars with 1st place club, and 8 points Ahead of 3rd place club,

Stella ’B’ Stars came in 4th position which is an amazing achievement  considering we had average of 5 walkers per month due to work commitments, working late, Injuries /operations -super job.

On a weekly basis, few walkers were even dogs are more than welcome have been doing 10-11km walk meeting at ‘Dave’s Prostitute corner’ at 06h30, and ending at The coffee Tree for well-deserved large double cappuccino, practically 2km before the end you can see Mike pick up the pace as he smells the coffee beans tickling his nose and chases off like a panting lion in hot pursuit of a  petrified impala!

Before you all fall off for nap reading my report …   I would like to make few special mentions and also name drop, sorry ladies:

Firstly a special thanks to Therese Hurley who dutifully took part in each of the time trials along with the walkers during lockdown and represented Stella in the 4km masters category and overall Stella A was placed 10th out of 20 teams, well-done T!

Secondly to Dot O’Leary who took the Stella walkers under her wing until lockdown, unfortunately kept Dot away and therefore had to train on her own in the morning. trust the New Year will see our special lady take over the helm once again.

Thirdly, and finally special thank you to Jocelyn Goodwin who assisted Dot in overseeing the group with dedication and poise and bringing the group together, rain did not keep Jocelyn away as she dutifully kept the diehard’s going, Thank you Jocelyn!

You are all an inspiration to me and I would like to mention you all personally, you all know who you special ladies are, a big thank you on behalf of myself and Stella club community.

I would like to wish you a safe an wonderful Christmas and may 2021 bring you good health and many personal bests and re-acquainted friendships.

Maniac Mike

SANI STAGGER TRAIL 21KM

By Stuart Riddle

About 10 years ago, after supporting some of her work colleagues, my wife Sheldene decided that she would one day enter the Sani Stagger half marathon.

At the time, neither of us were doing any running. In the latter half of the 1980’s I had competed in standard distance triathlons and had run the Elangeni half marathon.

Having not run for many years I started running again in 2017, when Sheldene had started to run. This resulted in us each losing about 20kgs, and the two of us joining Stella in November last year.

2020 was to be The Year

At the beginning of this year it was decided this was to be the year, So at 08.45 on 4th of March 2020, I sat in front of my laptop, nervously awaiting the 9 o’clock opening of entries for the Sani Stagger. I had been threatened with my life, that entries for the Sani Stagger 21km, usually filled within 15 minutes of opening. To make matters worse, being on my ROAG profile I had to do my trail entry first. (I was never going to attempt to run downhill for 21k’s). 09.10: I was entered for the 21 km trail and my wife and son, Keaton, for the Sani Stagger half marathon.

Later that month I very comfortably completed the Deloittes half marathon. Feeling I was on schedule for Sani in November.

Having survived lock down, shin splints and Glencairn trail run (nursing achillies injury), I felt ready for Sani.

Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions and border closures the Sani Stagger Half Marathon was changed to the Sani Stumble (Sani Pass hotel 10km up to the SA border and back). Sheldene and Keaton opted to hold their entries over to next year. Sheldene was a supporter once again.

21 November 2020 Race Survival day

My hydration pack was feeling very heavy with the compulsory items. Reminiscent of army route march.

  1. space blanket
  2. 1,5l water (I only had 1l)
  3. Charged cell phone
  4. Whistle (I forgot)
  5. Emergency rations – 2x Energy bars must be produced at finish unless used in emergency ???
  6. Silicone cup – I used this at every stream crossed.

Friends had warned me that this is a VERY tough run. I wish they had been more specific. The start was very well organised. 20 idiots at a time entering the start shoot, lining up in 4 rows of 5, leaving on the sound of the cow bell as the start tunnel cleared. Timing was from mat to mat.

(My Garmin time matched my results within a few seconds) but that was much later.

Route started gently along the road with a small muddy stream after 300m, which everyone crossed slowly avoiding getting our shoes wet, which was very useful because around the next bend was the first of 2 knee deep river crossings.

Weather was perfect, cool but dry with very low oxygen levels. After 1 km we started to climb, this was a relatively steep climb which lasted for only 7 kms. The first hour seemed to fly by, unfortunately the kms didn’t.  After 1 hour I had only done 5 kms.

At 6km you reach the highest point of the course 2000m, this was after 1h9mins. The view was breath-taking, as was the whole race. Pun intended. We then descended for the next 4kms, the terrain varying from moderate to very technical, but at least downhill taking us from 2000m to 1600m, until joining the infamous San pass road for a short steep 1.5 kilometres uphill.

On to the single track again for a gentle 5 km climb, gaining 250m elevation. Finally, the 2km descent to the beautiful Gxalingenwa river, which we followed and crossed several times for the next 3kms.

Many people taking the opportunity for a swim in the clear and cold water. I however opted not to swim as my legs felt that the next false step would result in serious cramp. The last km across the lush thick grass of the golf and the very welcome finish.

Here I discovered two things, if I sit down my legs cramp very painfully and that craft beer makes a great recovery drink.

Conclusion

A great weekend with great company, thanks to Sheldene and Maureen for supporting, and Sam, Sharon and Mike for joining the experience.

I will be back next year, and hopefully improve on my time.

What a year 2020!

By Ian Tait

So, with great dreams and hopes, 2020 was going to be a year to be remembered with all the goals I wanted to achieve. Trying to top 2019 was going to be a tough ask, but hey, if your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not living…

2020 will always be known for Covid19 and the year the world nearly shut down. To Runners it will always be remembered as the year Garmin was down for 3 days 😊

So, my first challenge for the year was to do a Triathlon, and going to visit my wife in Qatar seemed like the perfect place to do one, nobody to see me thrash, splash and panic swim my way in the ocean, then get onto a bike “Gasp” runners don’t free wheel… and then run how hard could it be. Well, don’t believe anybody when they say the desert does not get cold, I happened to visit during the coldest winter in 20 years. I should have realised there was an omen on the brew…

Race day arrives, I’m ready to race and my hire bike is nowhere to be found. Panic! 20 minutes before the start it arrives with a flat tyre. More Panic! No problem for another bike hire company, they see this and take the wheel of my hire bike and replace it with one of theirs, such awesome customer service. I now go off to the pens and am stressing only for this awesome lady to come to me and says, “Ahh Stella, are you from Durban?” I was wearing my new Stella Club T-Shirt. Relief knows no bounds, she said she’s from Toti but lives in Doha now and will sort my stuff out and took my bike my kit bag and chased me off to start the swim. (2 minutes before the start)

In brief, I get to the doc, and jump into the water, and just about died, 17c. I should have worn the wetsuit. Anyways 850m later, on the 750m swim I get the end and drag my sorry frozen self out of the water. The life savers seemed relieved as I thought they were going to jump in after me a few times… My angel from Toti is waiting for me, to direct me to my bike. I dry off get changed and remembered to put the helmet on, NB don’t forget the helmet, or your race is done. With Meganne cheering on from the side line it was on your bike for 20km.

So, I go as fast as I can, when I say Doha is flat, there is literally no hills, unless it is manmade. I’m in top gear and passing cyclists even some of those on TT Bikes and thinking this is easy. The bike section is done in no time and I think imagine if I could run this fast… I rack the bike, take off the helmet and I hit the road, 5km in the bag! Well, let me tell you a little story, that none of the Triathletes I spoke to for advice told me about. You need to rest your legs before the end of the bike, or they turn to jelly. For the first 3km, someone else’s legs were running for me, don’t know who, but thank you anyway. I was so fast, in those other persons legs, Meganne did not even see me finish.

After the adventure in Qatar, it was back home, to run Loskop and Tour D’ Durban a week later, all carefully coordinated by Craig George, ensuring I’m resting, training following the coach’s orders. Then we heard those dreaded words, “My Fellow South Africans”

Level 5 and the start of garden running, well thank the Lord for Trail Running as this is exactly what it was, round and around and around you would go. 5km is 45 minutes, like what on earth. Anyway this continues, Loskop is cancelled, then Oceans and we stay locked up. So, Debbie Wessels gets a bright idea and challenges me to run 42,2km around my house for her Cape Town Spending money, to donate to a charity of my choice. Mmmm, Ok, let raise some funds for those that are really struggling through these extraordinary times. The big day arrives and I start out and I run, and run, change direction and run, my dog Captain starts running with me but decides after about 5 minutes, this is crazy. I messaged Debbie about three hours into the run just on 20km to say this is madness and she calmly replies, you got this! Seven hours and fifty odd minutes later 479 laps around the house I finish with a swan dive into the pool. Note for future races in 2025, a pool to finish in is a great idea. Total raised for charity R10k!

Eventually Level 4 and Level 3 came to be, and we could venture out the yards and into the streets. Well who know there were so many dog walkers and runners in Glenwood. It was fantastic to see people and the some of those new faces are still at it.

Comrades was still up in the air and then boom cancelled and many a roadie’s heart was broken. That Comrades Dream, gone! Fear not along came Virtual Races and Comrades had a great idea, run, just not the race and run it from anywhere, just stay safe. I must admit, that although it will never compete with the vibe of Comrades, the trot up Botha’s Hill to The Wall and back with all the other runners on the road, was special. 21.1km Comrades, might be a great idea for the future.

I decided it was time to run an international event and what a better race than that of The Hawaii Marathon. So training started in earnest, with the help of the Stella Morning Group, known as the “Early Birds” keeping Stella out of any liabilities with the you know who. Nobody else was going to run, so I mapped out a route, Surf Riders to Umhlanga and back would be along the coast and give a semi feel of the tropical island of Hawaii. Then Alistair Green offered to come and run with Petra as our support on 27km. This was going to be a race with no water tables, time starts and only stops at the end. The day started off overcast and things were looking up, first 10km in an hour, and we work our way to The Pier, a quick photo shot as one does and we turn for home.

By this time Durban decides to show off and the sun comes out blazing. Alistair kept say, on the way back, Petra will be at Caltex in Forest Drive with refreshments, and we could not wait to get there fast enough. A well-deserved 10-minute break change of shirt, food and cold drinks, and it was 15km to go, home stretch. As we all know too well that promenade can be brutal, the last 8km was no hell, but know there was a huge Chocolate Milkshake at the end was the reward. Hawaii Completed 4:42 and change, two very happy Stella runners.

Running it a great fun and running with friends makes it so much more fun. Always find a friend that will be willing to deal with your whinging, has a sense of humour and will encourage you to keeping going.

 Then a friend of mine in Pretoria messaged me to say why don’t we do a trail run in the mountains, seeing that these races are open. We looked and found one in December enough time to trail, only 40km and 1600m of elevation. Pat Freeman told me about Norther Drakensberg Trail last year, that she ran and loved it. #DNT2020 it was going to be.

On Saturday the 5th of December my good friend Jenny Cairns from Irene Running Club started the daunting task of #DNT2020. Knowing that this was an Andrew Booth race, KZN Trail Running, it would be spectacular but tough. Stella was well represented with Shantelle and Brett Walters, Pat Freeman and Margie all taking on the 20km event as well.

The day started off cold, wet and misty, a blessing is disguise as we never really saw what lay ahead of us. Sometimes the mist was so thick, we had to search for the markers to proceed forward. Jenny and I started off nicely, evenly paced, and we banked on 8kph, we should have more than enough in the bag for the 11H30 (6 Hour Cut Off on 25km) Boy were we wrong! We climbed, climbed some more and then climbed again, trying not to walk off the ridge to certain pain and death! Roadies, I’m being dramatic, trail running is the best running to improve your road running, I promise, take it from a runner that could barely break 7 minute a kilometre two years back.

We got to the 25km mark with 30 minutes to spare, time for a break, food at the aid station before taking on Vultures Pass. (460m long, 179m high and 24 minutes of climbing at 38% gradient)

By this time, it was bucketing down with rain but eventually we get to the top and start working our way back to the start. The mist slowly started to lift and the sun game out to reveal the Sterkfontein Dam in all its glory on our left and The Royal Natal Park on our right. The beauty can’t be described in words, not by me anyway.

We found a straggler from Durban Old Boys, and he tagged along for the last 14km that felt like an eternity, we were convinced that we would be stone last, but it was not about where you finished, but finishing the challenge that counts. When the results came out, we were only 5th from last, to a good result none the less 😊 Race Result: 40,5km in a time of 09:36:12 and 1970m of Elevation!

As the year draws to an end, and the uncertainty that the future holds with regards to races next year, I would like to thank all my running friends and supporters for being there for me this year. To all my fellow Stella friends and running friends from elsewhere, my advice is pick something that scares you, set the goal, enter, train and always wear sun screen!

Here’s to 2021.

Road Captain Rants

To say we will never forget 2020 is an understatement! Who would have thought that when the clock struck 00:00 2020, that we would have experienced such a dramatic, upside down passage of time. I do not think anyone can say they were unaffected by “Rona”! To see the whole world literally come to a standstill was eerie and totally surreal.

There were many negative aspects, illness, loss of life, loss of income, morale, and depression to name the obvious. But I think there were a few positives to be taken from it. We all had to dig deep and re-evaluate what our priorities were. To really see that things are not as important as relationships and where our time is spent is important. As a community we had to reach out and help where possible, which is humbling.

Running was altered to the backyard and athletes had to learn to be creative with the minimal space they had. I am not a short distance runner, but suddenly clocking up 5k’s a day was like running a marathon, just to stay sane! The day we were allowed “out of camp” to run between 06.00 and 09.00 was such a social occasion.  To see our running mates again was a stop every few hundred metres just to catch up, recognising everyone under the disguise of a buff/mask and realising how important friendships are. 

Some of the accomplishments people achieved in the virtual world was amazing. Treadmills were abused, and paths created from repetitive laps to achieve half marathons, marathons, Two Oceans and Comrades distances was mind boggling.

Many more folk donned on running kit that perhaps would never have started exercising but because it was now limited, it ignited a spark to keep fit and healthy. Virtual runs allowed us to compete in races that we would never be able to participate in.

We were finally able to open the club in the latter part of the year, and to see the response of dedicated athletes was amazing. Our first time trial and braai was really special. We have seen many folk coming back to the club. Not to be put off by the faster runners, a new group sprung up with the “easy paced” run/walk group starting  15 minutes earlier, following the same planned route in order to not be left behind, has been extremely successful. And to see the progress of many athlete is encouraging.

So a year that stopped in March and started again in October is almost up.

From Walker to Runner: A Tribute to Dave Beatie

By: Ronnie Groenewald

2 years ago I phoned Stella and asked if I could join in some sessions as I tried running in the park but ended up with more injuries than gains. Pat Freeman suggested that I start with the walkers. I met Dave there as he had been walking instead of running due to an injury. I told him one day I would really would like to run.

After some basic training sessions Dave suggested I do a club time trial. I came stone dead last with a time close to 50 minutes in pouring rain but he told me these words which probably changed my life: “We going to make an athlete out of You”. Why these words meant so much to me at the time was because I’m 1,89 meters tall and at that time weighed over 125 kg. I was built more like a tractor than a athlete.

This started my running and weight loss journey from 125 kg+ all the way down to 105 kg doing Durban Runner 21 km. All these milestone but I still didn’t complete my biggest: I wanted to run. All the races we did we always walk/run and Dave never cared once about his own time but rather encouraged and helped and almost dragging me over the finish line when I wanted to give up, he never gave up and always pushed me. We did a Saturday Stella Gillies once and we walked from the club all the way to the top at Maris Stella and told me: “one day You will run up this hill” I thought he was full of nonsense as I was out of breath just walking it.

When we were in Level 5 Lockdown I was fortunate to have a treadmill and didn’t have to run around my garden. I decided I am going to a do a couch to 5 km program so that I can run for  5 km. I finally accomplished this goal in June 2020 on the road. It was a small personal accomplishment but I was over the moon. I decided to step it up and start another 17 week beginners program.

Today, 15 August 2020 I went out to do a 13 km (as per my program). I ran past Musgrave Centre and usually I need to start walking there but I felt good so just kept on plodding along (remember tractor size not Superbike). Before I knew it I was right next to entrance of Maris Stella and realised I just conquered a hill Dave told me one day I will be able to run. I realised all I achieved in these last 2 years thanks to his encouraging words and support and guidance. I ended up running through hilly Morningside all the way home, 13.5 km without a walk conquering every hill and every step.

Thank you Dave Beattiie for being there for the beginner runners. Today I honestly felt like I achieved that athlete status you spoke about 2 years ago.