Inspiration and Motivation

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.

Making it happen!

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.

Lockdown Diaries – Debbie Wessels

Debbie

 

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!

Hillcrest Marathon 2020

By Kathryn Watt

Kathryn - photo

 

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.

The start

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.

Lap 1

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.

Lap 2

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.

The finish

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 Accolades – December Edition

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.

Pat Freeman

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:

  1.  1000km challenge  (completing 1000km of registered races in one calendar year) for 3 years running – Permanent Number 320
  2. Mont Aux Sources 50km Ultra Trail  (5 times)  Permanent number 151
  3. Two Oceans Permanent Number 1650   –   best time ever 5.24
  4. Rhodes 52km Ultra Trail – Permanent number 323
  5. 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!

Louise Hucklesby

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.

PB’s

  • 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!!

The Authentic Athens Marathon 2019

By Alan Brunsdon

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!

Stella Accolades – November Edition

By: Sandy Mullins

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 applaud the following Stella member for his achievements!

Grant Matkovich

When it comes to running, for most of us, we are simply proud to finish a race or complete the goal that we have set for ourselves. But some athletes, are simply amazing with what they manage to achieve, and the beauty about it, is that you would never know because it is not broadcast. That is, until I get hold of it!!😊

Stella has one such sportsman who has achieved so much. Here are just some of his achievements:

  • In 2008, he summited Kilimanjaro.
  • In 2015, he comfortably completed the full Ironman competition in PE.
  • He has completed two Two Oceans Ultras in 2006 and 2014.
  • He has ten Comrades to his name, his best time being 8:22. However on his 10th, he raised money for charity, doing the UNOGWAJA CHALLENGE, which is a 10-day, 1,660km cycle from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg, then on day 11, you simply run Comrades! What is seriously impressive is that he did Comrades in under 11 hours and raisingover R500k for Comrades Amabeadi-beadi charities!
  • Also added to his bucket list of achievements is most of the road and trail running races, cycle races (Amashova, tour Durban) and triathlon events in and around KZN.

Not only is our doctor an achiever, but Grant Matkovich gives back for the love of the sport. He is a member of the Comrades Race Organizing Committee as the Portfolio Convenor for International Hospitality since 2015 to present, which looks after International runners’ registration at the expo and the International hospitality area on race day. He also helps Community Chest Charity with their Comrades fundraising campaigns.

We as Stella are extremely proud of what Grant has done and commend him for his achievements and his selfless giving!

Stella hosts Walking Clinic with Natalie le Roux

By Sharon Troll

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Early Saturday morning a bunch of eager walkers from as far as Hilton attended the Walking Clinic given by Natalie le Roux.

She shared her truely inspirational life story, some of her future goals, nutrition, how to train for a race and a little bit about KZN Masters Athletics before taking us through the warm up routine. Boy was that difficult!!! ‘Pulling the line from your navel’, ‘rocking the baby’, ‘loosening those hips’ and ‘activating the shins’ made us all look at bit silly, but we soon saw the benefits of all these movements.

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After a few stretching exercises we walked up to Bulwer Park where Natalie explained how we should approach the up hills and downhills, and some other techniques. We did a couple of rounds in the park showing off our new moves.

The clinic was enjoyed by all and several walkers showed interest in future events. So watch this space.

Thanks to Natalie for sharing your knowledge in such a humble way. 

Thanks to Jodi Pastorino from KZNMA for joining us.

Thanks to Stella Athletic Club for hosting the clinic.

Thanks to Michael Mostert who took the initiative in asking for a donation towards the Elders Voice and thanks to everyone who gave from the heart.

I’ll end with a very appropriate saying coming from our own Frankie…

WALK WITH PURPOSE!!

The Flip side of Comrades

By: Sandy Mullins

9 June has come and gone, and many participants have positive experiences to share of their Comrades journey. Being at the Aches and Pains Braai afterwards was a testimony to the fact as runners hobbled around in their Comrades shirts, proudly displaying their hard-earned medals and sharing all their experiences. Each one deserving the limelight and soaking it up.

I hid behind my phone taking photos, so happy for our Stella Stars but wishing I was also experiencing the euphoria of the weekend. But in truth, all I wanted to do was flee to my bed and sob my heart out. For me, it was the utter disappointment of another DNF. Life is quite seriously unfair. 

I was so ready for this day. I could tick off all the necessary requirements of a safe finish. I’d trained with discipline and didn’t hesitate to run and clock up 1300k’s of mileage. I was injury free; head was in the right space and I was eager to show the up run I was able to respectfully conquer. I took all the necessary precautions of not getting sick (Bactroban up the nose, throat spray, hand sanitizer and a dozen vitamins). It was a green light all the way until the Monday before Comrades! I picked up a gastro virus and puked my lungs out. I went to the doctor hoping to sort it out immediately. He gave me a jab for fever and nausea and tabs to take which would, with any luck sort me out in time. 

When I lined up at the Durban City Hall, I was feeling great. I had slept surprisingly well and was as calm and relaxed as could be. We set off and at first; I thought it was unusually warm. But by the time we were heading up Cowies, I said to my running mates, that I felt like I was overheating – the steam was coming from my head. Anyway, upwards we went, and I enjoyed the atmosphere in territory where you are guaranteed of seeing someone you know on the side of the road. It buoys you, and that friendly word of encouragement just spurs you on. I was still on track and despite feeling a bit bilious, I was okay. The Stella tables along the way were great and I got my replenishing Gu’s and Rehydrats to continue. At Inchanga I picked up my Crampnot, took it and left the table thinking, right this is progress – I have passed the spot I had to pull off two years ago. I had hardly started moving when the first cramps hit me like a bolt of lightning. No, this couldn’t be happening, not now in no man’s land! Harrison Flats is a desolate stretch at the best of times, but to have a problem was not ideal. My cramps came regularly in each calf and the left leg right up the inner thigh. It was excruciating. I felt like I was a Jewish slave in the Biblical times of the Pharaohs and a slave driver was whipping my legs shouting SUFFER! No God, this wasn’t meant to happen this way, we were doing this together! The more I tried to move, the more severe the cramps came. One young man from Tzaneen tried to assist by releasing the tension in my legs and would walk with me and help again. Eventually I told him to go as he was looking for his wife so he could pull out. As I hobbled along I realised I was in trouble, with another 30k’s to go and the Crampnot was not working, I didn’t see much option. Unfortunately, I hopped on to a baler bus – my race was over. Could I have gone further? Should I have waited? Why didn’t I try harder? Why was I the one plagued with a virus which had obviously not taken its tentacles off me? I had done a long training run of the same distance and not cramped once, so I knew it wasn’t anything but this bug. 

At the time I was okay with my decision and went to wait for Sean, David, Thanesh and John at Lion Park, with our Stella table – the selfless Sue Bezuidenhout and Vanessa Botha. I had made a friend on the bus and she also hopped out there to wait for her friends to collect her. We could not have stopped at a better spot, an oasis in the desert. We were given warm jackets, drink upon drink to try and quench an unquenchable thirst. They fussed over us and the other runners coming past. It was good for me to see my running mates and encourage them on, though they were all heartbroken to see me at the side of the road. 

A week later, having rehashed THAT day over and over again, I am coming to terms with it. I have been humbled, but I am not out. Is it such a big deal? Actually, YES – when you have invested half a year of sacrifice, and not only your time and all that goes with it, but my dear husband’s as well. Sean had backed me to the hilt, and it was just as much a team effort as it was my run! 

I know I am not alone in this experience and many can relate in one way or another. It is character building (I think I have enough character now!!) and we can only hope to inspire each one to achieve the goals they have set – whether it be a Park Run or Comrades, it’s to remain focused and all being well, we learn and grow. I will pick myself up out of the dust and I will return to run and complete the race, to attain the goal I have set for myself.

Stella Accolades

By Sandy Mullins

Stella is a club of many talented athletes, and in varying degrees, not necessarily in speed, but also in endurance, grit, stickability and character. Often achievements are made and they fly under the radar. So my aim is to acknowledge our Stars by highlighting their achievements and giving credit where credit is due. If you know of someone who you feel needs to be recognised, please send me a mail and we can honour our Stars. It could be coming “first” in your personal race against time, or achieving a goal that ticks off a bucket list. Or it could be the support and encouragement given to runners that makes this individual shine.  It will take time but we will do our best to make sure you do your best!

To kick-start the Accolades, here are a couple of Stars that have made an impact this year.


Stars to the Rescue!

By Sandy Mullins

Not every run planned goes according to plan! Saturday 23rd of Feb 2019, was one such run. A training run from the club had been planned, a tough Cowies Hill and back 32k, which under normal circumstances is challenging to say the least. We arrive at the club before 5:00 and start ambling up the road gearing up for the challenge. As we look up in the dawn light, a chap on a bicycle comes past us and we see Clay Bonorchis running towards us – shouting and gesticulating to the group to stop that guy – he’s just hijacked that bike off a mature cyclist doing an early morning ride. The next minute, Julian Robert followed by Clay go hurtling off, giving chase that would have given Usain Bolt a run for his money. The rest of us stunned, are not quite sure what to do now. Do we wait; do we carry on and hope that our two brave idiots are okay and catch up? We decided to continue slowly. About 4ks down, Kevin Hendrikse phoned Gabriel, our car guard at the club to find out if Clay and Julian had returned. They had and he told Clay to join us at 45th cutting if they were up to it. 

What had transpired was that they managed to catch up to the thief and eventually retrieved the bicycle, though the badly stunned crook managed to get away. They then took the bike to the club and gave it to the cyclist with a stern admonition from Clay. After having done a world record 2k’s or so – these two gents still proceeded to run up to Cowies and caught up with us! Absolute respect for our heroes – who did not hesitate to help in a time of need! 


Sam Mkhonto 

By Sandy Mullins

There are so many Stella members who fly under the radar, yet contribute so much to Stella. One amazing man is Sam Mkhonto, who has been running with the club for many years. He is over 60 and has ten Comrades under his belt, his best time being 8:51 and still continues to run credible times. But what is special about this gentleman is the encouragement he gives to other runners. Every week you see him and a few other athletes training in the park. At club runs, he comes alongside aspiring athletes and gently gives them advice and reinforcement. I went through a bad patch one year, and while running one day, this gentle presence came alongside me and gave me tips and pushed me through, when I was feeling as flat as a pancake. I know many have been touched by his encouragement. His passion for Stella and the runners is noticeable. Sam – you are a star of note and deserve to be recognised!

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Sharon Troll

By Sandy Mullins

This quiet, unassuming lady is a walker of note. She is part of the walking squad, though is quite able to run too!

In March this year, Sharon attended the KZN Masters Champs 5000 meter track events. On the Friday evening, she came second in her age category for the 5k walk in a time of 33:57, and to top it all, the next day did the 10k walk in 1:14, receiving silver medals for both events. 

Well done Sharon – you are a champ!!b03ac321-6d4b-4d60-8a43-784daab9aecf.jpg


Michael Mostert

By Dave Beattie

Mike Mostert is the epitome of a big man with a big heart. Not only is he our Walking Road Captain, but he is also the person who champions walking at club, race and league level. Nothing is too much effort for Mike and you will always see him in the middle of his gaggle of walkers. He is the person to whisper encouragement into a new walker’s ear and push his protégés to be the best that they can be.  He is certainly quick with a chirp and similarly fast on his feet. Mike is innovative in his training methods and is not scared to try and convert seasoned runners to the walking discipline. The Stella walking team would not have achieved the league wins that they have had without his excellent leadership, drive and encouragement. Mike is a great guy and huge asset to the club. 

Michael compressed