1987 Military Tattoo, Stuart was in the Military Tattoo Guard of Honor and Sheldene was doing the Aerobics display at the Tattoo
How long have you been a member of Stella Athletic Club?
Since December 2019
What was your reason for joining?
Stuart : Ask my wife!
Sheldene: Our friends were members
What is your favorite race distance to run / walk?
Sheldene: 10 km
Stuart: 21 km
What has been your most embarrassing/Funniest running moment to date?
Sheldene: Have you ever done a training walk with Dave Beattie aka Grumpy, need I say more 😊
Stuart: Too many to mention
What is your favorite meal to enjoy the evening before an important race?
Sheldene – Wine the night before a race
Stuart – Future Life
Name your favorite running shoe brand and why?
Sheldene : Not fussy but I prefer Brooks
Stuart: New Balance wide
Describe your personality in 3 words.
Sheldene: Committed – determined – and Grumpy over any distance over 7km
Stuart: Peer Pressure is real
What is your running goal or aspiration?
Sheldene: To complete an 21.1 km and complete the Sani stagger
Stuart: To Improve my time at the Sani stagger Trail
What to date is your biggest running / walking achievement? (your proudest moment)
Sheldene: Double Gold award at the Adidas
Stuart: sub 2 hours on the Deloitte 21.1 km
Who to date has been your biggest running / walking inspiration?
Sheldene: My friend Sharon Troll is my inspiration
Stuart: Mhlengi Gwala ( The promising SA Tri athlete who was attacked in 2019 with an chainsaw while training near University of Kwa-Zulu natal near Glenwood area and who is back on his bike competing again and headed to Italy for the Para-cycling competition
Which couple do you nominate next for questioning?
After being in Lockdown, which seems to be forever, some dreams and goal have had to be put on hold. 2020 was supposed to have been the start of reaching my dreams, my plan was to run The Two Oceans Marathon that year and then go on to run the Comrades Marathon in 2021. However, the universe had other ideas.
After being injured I was unable to qualify for the Two Oceans Marathon up until the very last qualifying race, which was the Deloittes Marathon (no pressure). I really did not have a good day out there, I fought hard because I was adamant that I was going to qualify. With only a few minutes to spare, I crossed the finish line and qualified! I was broken, but I had done it and so I was one step closer to making my dream come true. Whilst sitting at the Stella tent after the race, with a happy heart knowing I had qualified, I was told that the Two Oceans Marathon had been cancelled due to Covid-19. I honestly thought that they were joking, I had fought so hard to finish the race and to qualify only for it to be cancelled. I felt so defeated. Lots of negative thoughts went through my mind but once I had time to process everything, I realized that I had gained so much from running the Deloittes Marathon. I learnt so much about myself on that day and I am forever grateful.
Shortly after, South Africa was placed in total Lockdown. Running and exercising (outside of your home) was prohibited. Some decided to not let this dampen their spirits and created a running circuit in their gardens. Running in circles, some creating distinct pathways in the process and then changing direction for a bit of variety (I think some gardens are yet to recover). Some may call them crazy… well, we are runners after all.
Although this was a set back, it gave my body time to heal and recover from all the niggles. Eventually we were allowed to run again, but with restrictions, having to run with a mask or buff, making sure you were socially distanced and only being allowed to run between 6am – 9am. I was just happy to be out on the road again, even if it was just within a 5km radius from home.
As time went on, restrictions were eased and we were allowed club runs again. It was so awesome to see all the Stella Stars again. It really made many hearts happy.
Fast forward a few months and going up and down Lockdown levels like a yo-yo, all races, including Comrades Marathon 2020 were cancelled. There was so much uncertainty as to when or if we would be able to run our next race. With motivation and morals running low, we all needed a ‘pick me up’. Just when we thought it was all doom and gloom and that races would be a thing of the past and a distant memory, virtual races were born. Even though it was not the same as a real race, it gave us purpose and boosted our moral. We now had something to train for. YAY!!
We all had our hopes up that by some miracle Comrades 2021 was going to go ahead. Unfortunately, this was not to be and it was cancelled again. In spite of this, the organizers decided to create a virtual race (as they had done the previous year) with various distances. So, a few of us novices decided to get a taste of what we would be getting ourselves into when we got to tackle the Comrades Marathon. We decided to enter the 45km race and oh boy, did we get a taste!!
The route was planned. We would start and finish at Stokers Arms in Kloof and run part of the Comrades route, to the top of Inchanga and back, giving us the experience of a few of the iconic hills. It was the Comrades Centenary Hope Challenge after all…
As the days grew closer to race day, I still did not feel as though I was about to run the furthest I have ever gone, never mind about to conquer those famous hills. I think one thing that Covid-19 has taught me, is to be flexible and be able to take things in my stride. So, my goal was to go out there, enjoy the day out on the road, do my best and take things as they come. And I did just that!
Arriving at Stokers Arms and seeing our fellow Stella Stars, which included many experienced runners and a few novices, was thrilling. It defiantly got the butterflies going. A very passionate Stella Star got everyone’s blood pumping by playing Chariots of Fire and the National Anthem. I can’t wait to be able to experience ‘the real thing’ with them at the start line one day.
5:30am came and we were off. Being surrounded by a few of my favourite Stella Stars was incredible. It was a brilliant day on the road for me, however, it wouldn’t have been possible without the support from our fellow Stella members, manning water tables, supporting us on the side of the road and of course my number one fan 😊. Without them, this day would not have been a success. To see those happy faces and hear those words of encouragement were always well received. So, I thank you on behalf of all of us who ran.
I have always had a huge amount of respect for those who not only complete Comrades, but also those who are there at the start line waiting for the run to go off. However, I now have newfound respect for you all. I now also understand why everyone knows those hills by name, they are a real test mentally and physically. Although I had to dig deep and give myself a few pep talks (we all need a good talking to from time to time) I thoroughly enjoyed my day out there. What an amazing experience.
Although I have not reached my goals and dreams just yet, I have made some new goals along the way. I will never give up and will continue to strive to achieve what I have set out to conquer. Cheers to everyone who is going out there and making their dreams come true, despite the curve balls that have been thrown your way.
It is true that sometimes in life it’s the unexpected that will bring you true joy. Here is my story of how I got to run the Pinetown & District Athletics Club’s 25km race.
Friday 16 April 2021
It was a normal Friday afternoon at the office where I was wrapping up my work and looking forward to the usual 21km weekend long run the next day. Little did I know that I was in for a wonderful surprise. Gerald, a fellow Stella Star had unfortunately encountered an injury and offered me his entry to run the PDAC 25 which was taking place on Sunday 18th April 2021. I accepted with extreme excitement. We contacted the race organisers and the Event Timing staff to arrange for the change of details. I must say that I was very impressed with how efficient, polite and helpful they were. By the time I left the office, I had received all the emails and an sms confirming my participation at the race.
Saturday 17 April 2021
Saturday morning I woke up and drove up to Lahee Park in Pinetown to collect the race pack and goodie bag. Lahee Park is where we were to find the finish line of the race the next morning. I had never taken part in this race before, and up until Saturday morning I had never set foot at Lahee Park before either. This for me was unknown territory. I had hoped to have time to drive along the route on Saturday, but I struggled to find someone to accompany me who knew the race route at such short notice.
It was now Saturday afternoon, and to sum it all up to this point, 24 Hours ago I did not even know that I’d be running this race, and 24 Hours from now I’ll be running the race without knowing the route. It was at this point that the good old race jitters set in. It has been over a year since one had to carry out the “Night before race prep”. One by one I ticked the items off the preparation list, starting with the kit, nutrition, transport, alarm clock and all the way down to the last but very important cup of coffee before the race. I was also fortunate to have a last minute chat with a few Stella Stars about the race, race profile and their previous experience. This proved to be very valuable for me on race day.
Race Day: Sunday 18 April 2021
My alarm clock worked as advertised and I got up in time, had my cup of coffee and started my 30 minute drive to Watercrest Mall. The song on repeat for this drive was Adele – When we were young. Now I know what you’re thinking, but let me just say that the song gets me going, ok. J
The atmosphere at the start line and waiting area was nothing short of electrifying. As we drove into the mall, one could see the road closure signs, cones and the red and white tape. After such a long, difficult year of the pandemic it suddenly dawned on me that this race is actually happening. This was exciting. Apart from a handful of runners who were doing their warm up drills outside, the rest used the isles inside the mall as a waiting area as the temperature outside was reported to be around 12 degrees Celsius.
Everyone was so happy, friendly and greeting with big smiles. I was excited to be part of this race, not only because it was a first of many post the pandemic, but also because this was my first official race as a Stella Athletics Club member. It felt good to see other Stella Stars in their kit and to wish each other well for the race.
At exactly 05:30 the air horn went off and the race began. The early start was definitely advantageous as this allowed us all more time to cover some ground before sunrise. The advice I had received from my fellow club mates came in handy right at this point. As advised, I ran the first 5 km gently as it was gradually climbing from the start line towards Hillcrest, and I held back on the pace once I was on the downhills. I believe that this approach definitely spared me from possible injury and allowed me to enjoy the race in its entirety.
I had also been made aware of the two (2) hills that I was to face approximately 3 km from the finish line. Armed with this knowledge, I reserved 10 to 20% of my effort throughout the race so that I would have enough energy to summit these hills. I was happy to find that the strategy worked out as planned. When I approached the hills, I gave it my all and manage to climb both hills without walking. In fact, I ran the whole race without stopping once for a walk to recover. After the climb, only 2km remained. Running into the stadium and seeing the finish line always gives one that extra push and a burst of energy. And just like that, the race was done.
One thing that was unusual and clearly notable was the absence of crowds of spectators and other athletes post-race.
Runners were instructed to wear their masks after crossing the finish line and also were encouraged not to hang around at the stadium so as to observe the Covid-19 regulations.
I am glad that many did observe these regulations, and do truly hope and believe that this race and the way it was organised will open doors for many more sporting events to come. I finished the race at a time of 02:14:59. I have set a sub 2 goal for this race for next year and would definitely recommend it to any runner to come and experience it for themselves.
I turned 40 during 2020. We had just gone into hard lockdown 4 days before the big Four Oh and I had to cancel my fortieth birthday/house warming party. We moved into our new house on the 6th March and were so busy with house hunting, bond applications and packing and unpacking that my dream of being forty and fabulous had fallen along the wayside and I ended up celebrating my birthday being forty and fat!
Needless to say, we were all bored and had to find ways to keep sane during these crazy times. And this is probably where you are thinking that I decided to start running. Nope, I decided to indulge in one of my other pleasures….baking! And along with hubby’s love for cooking I grew even more fabulously fat!
Isn’t it amazing how we only notice what we really look like when looking at pictures? And during November 2020 I saw a picture of me that made me realise that I needed to find a hobby other than baking. A friend of mine was going through a weight loss journey at the same time and gifted me with a weight loss coach and an eating plan. Part of this weight loss program was having to make at least 10 000 steps a day. Ten thousand!? How was I going to do this when most of my day was spent sitting on my office chair in front of a computer!? Queue the running!!
I was serious about being forty and fabulous and went digging through my drawers to find the smart watch which hubby had bought for me more than a year ago. Hauled out my running shoes, which I had only used for gardening up until now. The plan was to start running with Ronnie, but I just never seemed to get around it. Life was always getting in the way and with three very busy kids, two of them being very sporty boys, there just never seemed to be enough time in a day. I decided that the only way that this was going to happen was for me to get up earlier. This being a struggle in itself as I am no early bird. But like clockwork I would get up every morning and jump on the treadmill in the corner of our room to try and get as many steps as I could before my day started. Headphones on and in the dark as Ronnie was still sleeping. I was oblivious to my thud, thud, thud, thud on the treadmill. Ronnie not so much! And on the 17th November 2020 he promptly decided that he would have to get up and do this with me….there was no sleeping through my thudding….but there was one condition….we were going to do it his way. I was secretly petrified knowing that he had completed three half marathons and was very chuffed with himself that he could run 13,5kms without stopping!
He downloaded an app called Couch2 5K on my phone and off we went every morning for me to train to run 5kms without stopping. Because I had to make 10 000 steps every day as part of my weight loss plan, we had no rest days. But this worked for me as routine and a new habit set in very quickly. I am a very organised person and routine is what makes me tick! And on the 27th December 2020 I ran my first 5kms without stopping! (And I lost 9kgs in the process!)
Getting up to go run had become easy and within two days we started the 10K training program. But the running wasn’t getting easier. It was getting hotter by the day and I literally felt like there was going to be nothing left of me by the end of each run. No energy and no fluids. But I pushed through each run.
Finally the day arrived on the 7th February 2020! I was going to do this! Ronnie decided that my first long run should be on the promenade. Just to make it a bit easier. Our son Daemien decided to run with us this day. It was really hot and my legs felt like lead. Admittedly I only start feeling comfortable after about 5kms into a run. But today was not getting easier. Daemien is just a natural runner and was a couple of steps ahead of me without having trained at all. Ronnie wasn’t having a good day and started battling at around 5kms. Daemien was ahead and Ronnie was falling behind. I was struggling in the heat and my legs were failing me. Was I going to give up and start walking with Ronnie? After all, he has always held back so that I can keep up. The urge to just start walking and the heat was just getting too much. My mind started taking over. I have trained so hard to get here and would have to wait a whole week before I could attempt this again. There is just not enough time in the mornings before work and school. And I had already started bragging to everyone about doing this ….no backing out now!
I asked Daemien to go check on Ronnie and he came back and told me that Ronnie was okay and said I must just go. Knowing that he was fine and no longer feeling guilty for leaving him behind put my mind at ease. And at around 7kms I just found my rhythm. Somehow my body just kept going and I managed to find a comfortable pace. By the time I reached Suncoast (running toward Bike & Bean, being the finish) it was extremely hot and I tried to keep to the shade as much as I possibly could. My legs no longer felt like they belonged to me. I remember thinking that I hope I don’t trip and fall down in front of Bike & Bean. And somehow I made it, past everyone relaxing and sipping their coffee and enjoying their breakfast, without face planting. I made it and I still had my own legs, although they felt like jelly at the time. I made it, although I had planned to divorce Ronnie many times in my head when he made me run hills. I had run 10kms without stopping!
And who knows….maybe there is a 21km on my horizon (with Ronnie by my side!)
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!
The lockdown due to the epidemic has caused worldwide havoc triggering everything to come to a grinding halt. Who would have thought a few month’s ago that there would be silence – no working, no socialising, and no sport. Almost like a sci-fi movie, which is quite scary. For sports lovers it was crazy not to watch any live coverage or participate in sport, as event after event was cancelled. Comrades was no exception, and it was heart breaking especially for novices who would have experienced the “Ultimate Human Race” for the first time on the 14th June. Having the virtual Comrades was a good initiative allowing thousands to experience the sensation of being a part of the brand. The shorter options were popular, especially having limited training. But there were those that went the full hog, even though it will not be officially recognised, but “in for a penny, in for a pound”. One such Stella athlete who would have lined up as a novice, did the 90k journey and deserves kudos for a brilliant effort.
Greg Conti, along with his mate Richard Jenkin ran from Glenwood through Berea, Morningside down to the beachfront, and along the promenade and back again, four times over! The journey was completed in under eleven hours to family and friends cheering them home. To do this on your own in a sense, with not experiencing the vibe of spectators lining the route throughout, no Big Five but the same training route four times is quite impressive.
Hats off Greg, this is an amazing achievement and gutsy, you “Dared to Dream” and you did it! Next year you will fly down to Durban and into the stadium with thousands welcoming you home! We salute you.
If I had been told three months ago that I would be running around my garden for fun, I would have laughed… but here we are! To say that the lockdown has taught me new things about running and digging deep is an understatement.
Where do I start? Well, I guess that I realise that nothing will stop me from running. I know you Stella Stars feel the same! But running in small confined spaces takes some getting used to (now I know how hamsters feel) and has unique challenges, but also privileges.
If you have the privilege of a garden to do your hamster thing in, you will know the challenges that can come with it: slower times, which is always a disturbing fact for us runners – especially when we (okay, I mean me) were slow to start off with; sore ankles and knees from turning so often; and having your spouse keep coming out to see if you’re okay. Old boy, be grateful I didn’t trade your car in for a treadmill!
Some of our Stella Stars have completely lost it and have run marathons and ultra-marathons in their gardens (I look forward to reading your stories). I really admire you guys and girls, but I think that’s a special kind of crazy… oops, I mean commitment! I’m sure you’re still dizzy from going around and around and around!
However, there are definitely benefits of garden running. Firstly, it’s close to the loo! YAY! This is a biggie for us girls! Running around my garden also made me realise that the run is about more than just the exercise and the speed and keeping the kilos under lockdown. It’s about the experience and literally stopping to smell the roses. I had time to appreciate all the butterflies that were visiting my garden, the dragon flies that suddenly appeared, and a slug which I’m glad to say was slower than me!!! When last did you see a friendly slug in your garden? I say friendly because he didn’t seem to mind me chatting to him every time I passed him. I’m sure he was getting irritated but he didn’t seem to be going anywhere in a hurry either! Speaking of cute animal companions, my little old sausage dogs have been my biggest support team during my garden runs. They’re always ready with a bark to spur me on!
Lastly, running around my garden has made me realise how much I appreciate and enjoy running with all of you Stella Stars, and I really look forward to being able to do that again in the hopefully not too distant future.
In the meantime, I pray that our Lord will keep you and your families safe as we go through these challenging times together!
P.S. My new running theme song is Queen’s “I’m Going Slightly Mad” and there you have it!
Sometimes it feels like joining a running club is not so dissimilar to joining a cult. And no time does this seem truer than when waking up long before dawn, squeezing into spandex and heading out into the dark to run an unreasonable distance, at an unreasonable hour, with excited hordes of other equally-brainwashed- spandex-clad folk.
Standing amidst the throng of excited runners at the start of the Hillcrest Marathon,
alongside the formidable figures of Brad, Coenie, Matt, and Sean, I wondered if I was going to make it to the end of the 42.2kms that lay ahead. In the weeks preceding the marathon, I had continuously considered downscaling my entry to the half marathon. My training had not been as rigorous or focused as it had been for my first marathon the year before, and I didn’t feel as well prepared. But the time for hesitancy had passed and, 15 minutes later than expected, the start whistle blew and the crowd jostled forward, tightly packed and wafting the scent of deep heat and sunscreen. In a few minutes we had crossed the start line and Sean and my race began.
At only 3 kms in I already needed an inconvenient toilet break, I was not the only one and the wait for the portaloo was excruciating as valuable minutes ticked by. The woman in front of me eventually rapped curtly on the portaloo door – I admired her bravado – and finally it was my turn. I felt a relief only runners know and eagerly headed back onto the road.
“Roll it, don’t push it” chanted the 2:30 pacesetter as he led his bus cruising downhill. “Roll it, don’t push it” I responded as I hopped aboard for a kilometre or so, the vibe of the bus pulling me along.
Sean and I ran sometimes a few metres ahead of, and sometimes a few metres behind the indomitable Sandy and Kirsty, both of whom were enroute to 21.1km. Sandy suggested that to save our energy for the second lap we try keep behind her. Dutifully I lessened my pace, and from that moment was sure never to pass Sandy. When Sandy slowed, I slowed and when she and Kirsty sped off into the distance I did not try to keep up. Sandy’s sage advice gave me permission to walk before I was forced by tiredness to do so, and I am certain this was the reason I took so much pleasure in the race and did not succumb to undue suffering on Lap 2.
We passed beneath the green canopy of a glorious avenue of trees, admired the manicured lawns and sweeping views of the Hillcrest mansions, shared smiles and words of encouragement with marshals, slurped coke mixed with water, and bit by bit watched the kilometres melt away.
I knew we were nearing the end of our first lap when we saw some of our favourite runners bounding down the hill we were battling up – they were already on their second lap and making great time. Ahead of the race, I had wondered if I would be tempted to turn off at the 21.1km mark, but on the day I cruised past the turnoff with no inclination to end my race.
As we began our second lap we were joined by a fantastic Save Orion runner who was
hoping to qualify for Comrades, we formed a mini-bus of our own and encouraged each
other onwards. This interaction led me to quietly hope that Sean and I too could complete our race in under 4hrs50mins.
It was starting to heat up, sweat ran down the back of my neck, and my hamstrings stung. Tired and shuffling slowly up yet another hill, a festive table of Chillie runners encouraged me to keep pushing and laughingly teased that “Stella got her groove back!”
I was surprised how little I minded running the same route twice as the second lap presented new sights, sounds and sensations (including a rather unpleasant pain in my hip).
In the final few kilometres as we walked what felt like the millionth hill, Sean and I came
across Tim – who is always such a friendly fellow to meet on the road. A persistent whistle blew from a pack of determined Hollywood Bets runners, and the 4.50
bus nipped closely at our heels. Now that I really believed we could finish under 4hr50mins I was fuelled by a jangle of nerves and unexpected determination. “All you need to do is stay ahead of that one bus” I thought.
We crested the final hill, pushed along the straight and then at last we were flying down the grassy slope towards the finish. I heard my name called out and looked up to find a row of green and gold figures cheering Sean and I on towards the end and before I had time to think we had crossed the finish line and our race was over.
My experience at Hillcrest Marathon left me filled with gratitude. Gratitude for fellow club members who celebrate each fellow runner’s achievements, no matter how small. Gratitude for all of the jovial marshals and the running community who make race day fun rather than daunting. Gratitude to Sandy and the other Stella veterans who offer expert running insight to us rookie runners. And gratitude to Sean for sharing the long run with me.
Stella is a club of many talented athletes, and in varying degrees, not necessarily in speed, but also in endurance, grit, stickability and character. This month we asked two of our Stella legends to share their running stories and achievements with us.
I started running in 1988 at the age of 32, my son Douglas was two years old. A friend of mine used to run and she encouraged me to try and train for a 10km race. So I entered . . . Having never run before, I rushed out (in my north stars) not wanting to come last. I completed the 10Km “Clicks” Ladies race – in a time of 50mins. The time didn’t mean too much to me as there were so many people in front of me, I just didn’t want to be last.
I love a challenge, so roll on 1st half marathon, the “Redro” 21km in Durban North – again I rushed off on my own not wanting to be left behind, get lost or not knowing which way they went! – 1.52hr
The following year, my running club Dolphin Coast Striders, made a HUGE fuss of going to the Two Oceans Marathon 1989 – It looked so pretty and exciting and the experienced runners gave fun “pep” talks and described the route, and the challenges, I couldn’t wait! Apparently, (a little inconvenient) I had to do a marathon in 4.15 to qualify for Oceans, so I entered my first marathon, the Besenol Marathon in Hillcrest (same route as today). The distance didn’t bother me as much as the concern that I would not be able to run Two Oceans if I didn’t qualify. So I hurried along and finished in 4.06hr.
Two Oceans came along and I loved the scenery – vibe and happy day on the road. The cut off was 6 hours – I managed a 5.46hr. I was nearly a real runner! When I realized I could still walk after the race, I thought, surely Comrades could not be that difficult as I had the whole day to complete it! So I entered … My first Comrades 1989 was a down run, I finished up with 10.25hr. It changed my life!
My 31 year running career had started and I am lucky enough to still be on my feet and looking for a challenge or new experience.
Permanent numbers received:
1000km challenge (completing 1000km of registered races in one calendar year) for 3 years running – Permanent Number 320
Mont Aux Sources 50km Ultra Trail (5 times) Permanent number 151
Two Oceans Permanent Number 1650 – best time ever 5.24
Rhodes 52km Ultra Trail – Permanent number 323
Comrades Marathon – Triple green 6883 – best time ever 9.12
Completed 91 Standard Marathons including 4 international Marathons (favourite is New York) – Best Marathon time 3.43.
Completed 11 multi day Ultra Trails.
The MOST difficult 1 day trail I have ever done was the “Otto Grail of trails” – 42km
Completed 55 ultra-marathons (excluding Comrades)
I am forever grateful for the ability to run – no matter how strange my style or slow my pace
My happy place!
By Sandy Mullins
Some people have been part of the Stella tapestry and history for so long, that we don’t realise exactly what they have achieved in their running career. One such person, who has given so much to the club over the years, that she is Mrs Stella! So just to put you in the picture, the spotlight falls on Louise Hucklesby!
Her running career started in 1994 and she ran her first Comrades in 1995, in a time of 10.19. Her fastest time was 8.38. “With all the hectic training I did was lucky to run 5 sub 9’s”. Louise has completed 21 Comrades!
She has also run:
Thirteen Two Oceans, her first in a time of 5.21 and the fastest 4.54.
70 marathons and 20 plus ultras
Louise has permanent numbers for Bergville, Pietermaritzburg, Buffs and Hillcrest. She also was fortunate enough to run the London Marathon in 2001 in Bruce Fordyce’s bus and had the pleasure of having Rory Stein (Madiba’s bodyguard) running with them.
5km – 20.50mins
10km – 42mins
21km – 1.35
42km – 3.19
Louise is passionate about running and loves assisting fellow athletes. She has been Chairperson of Stella and involved in the Committee for almost as long as her running career. She was one of the founders of the ladies time trial league, which in those days was sponsored by Nandos. The gents liked the idea so much that eventually the Time Trial League was formed and is still going today.
“I have had the privilege of managing the KwaZulu-Natal teams going to SA Champs for Cross Country, 10km, 21km and 42km and also served on a few committees at KwaZulu Natal Athletics”.
Words of advice – “Consistency is key and then always keep running and life balanced”.
Stella is fortunate and definitely the richer for all the input and sacrifice that Louise has given and in so doing put Stella on the running map! Thank you Louise!!
On Thursday 7 November 2019, our group of three runners set off to run the “Authentic Athens Marathon” in Greece. The Stella contingent of the group was Alan Brunsdon and Roger Scholtz.
The event commemorated and retraced the “original” marathon when, according to legend, a Greek soldier by the name of Pheidippides, in 490 BC, ran the 42 kms from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce the news of a great military victory over the Persians. According to legend when he arrived in Athens and announced the victory he promptly died of exhaustion – a feeling I can relate closely to!!
The event included a family run, 10km and the marathon which attracted 60 000 entrants from 110 countries, of which there were more than 100 South Africans!
We flew Emirates Airlines from Durban via Dubai to Athens. The race registration and expo was extremely well organized, as was the entire race.
On the Saturday before the race we did the tourist routine of visiting the Parthenon and Acropolis – this was the right option as we thought it best to do the walking whilst we still could! The sights and history of Athens go back centuries and are spectacular.
Race day arrived on Sunday together with cool cloudy conditions and temperatures of 21 degrees. There were five different collection points throughout the city of Athens that would take the 20 000 runners to the start of the marathon in Marathon. We arrived at our collection point, conveniently close to our Airbnb accommodation, at 06:00 to find numerous luxury buses waiting to take us to the start. We boarded very quickly and en-route a recording played through the bus PA giving us clear instructions as to what to expect on arrival at the start.
The starting area was well laid out with different coloured balloons marking the different starting batches etc. My starting batch as per my bib was purple – so all I had to find were the purple balloons! The race is run mat to mat so I set off at 09:28 while the front runners started at 09:00.
The first 5 kms were pretty easy but from there till 31 kms it was literally all uphill – a tough course! The water stations were very well stocked with drinks, dark chocolates and energy bars. The vibe on the road was great and crowd support good with the locals calling me “Bravo Bravo” even though my name was on my bib! Running in the South African flag colours certainly helps with crowd support and interaction with other runners. My SA flag running shorts earned the name ‘Faf shorts’ from many of the South Africans on the race!
The last 11 kms into Athens was a gentle downhill with lots of crowd support. The finish was into Panathenaic Stadium, the white marble stadium where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896. I finished in 5:58 even though the cut off was a generous 8 hours.
We returned home after a memorable Athens experience – definitely a marathon for the bucket list!