Uncategorized

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!

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.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Dear Stella members,

2017 is winding down and what an incredible year it has been for Stella Athletic Club.  The club comradery and unity has been incredible.

Looking back at the year we can be proud to have achieved so much as a club.  Our social functions were a huge success – from our Awards evening, quiz night to our Tropical themed end of year party.  We will not easily forget our very well supported Westville Christmas run this year where we all dressed up in our leprechaun outfits singing at the top of our voices between gulps of “liquid refreshments”.

Our regular Stella Stars newsletters have been a huge hit with many popular articles written by our members.

Let us not forget our running and walking – once again Stella has done us proud.  We were well supported at all of the races and even our gazebo has made a more consistent appearance! The weekly runs organised by the club have been very popular and often attract in excess of 30 runners! The names of all the members that have achieved their goals is too numerous to scribe.  Well done to all of us.

Our successful year could not have been made possible without your support, so to each and every member, we would like to say a heartfelt thank you for your commitment and dedication to Stella Athletic Club.  Thank you, thank you and thank you…

You will be happy to know that your committee is already hard at work planning 2018. Early in the new year you will receive an email, with an easy online link for membership renewal. We look forward to building on our successes of 2017 and see Stella Stars shine in 2018.

Once again, thank you for an incredible year and we wish you all the best for the festive break.  We are looking forward to seeing everyone back on the road in their green and gold in 2018.

Stella Athletic Club Committee

Stella Royal

by Alan Gibb
Stella Athletics Club held its annual Stella Royal 25km run/ 10km run/walk on Sunday the 19th March 2017. For some years now we have been doing pre-entries electronically and it is pleasing to see the number of pre-entries increasing each year.

However, there were still a large number of manual late entries and the teams were kept busy at Durban Runner on Friday night and at the club on Saturday. The helpers, many of whom had either run the helpers run in the morning or had assisted with the run spent almost the whole day at the club ensuring that everything was prepared for Sunday.

Race day dawned with nice overcast conditions with some drizzle. Perfect for a good race. Things were not going so well on the logistics side of the organisation, but in typical Stella fashion, people got stuck in and got the deliveries going. In fact, no one noticed that there were problems.

The club used schools to man a number of the tables, and by all accounts a lot of fun was had by the pupils at the tables. The best atmosphere was at the table manned by Jabu and his colleagues near uMbilo park.

I walked around and spoke to the winners of the races, and to a number of runners from other clubs, and not once did I get a complaint. Everybody was most complimentary about the organisers, the marshalls and the tables.

It was nice to see Prodigal, who spends so much time at the club, win the men’s 25km race, and Sandy de Beer, who is a previous winner of the women’s 25km race win the ladies 10km race on the day.

I therefore say thank you very much for all of the hard work that was put into the race by all the club members to ensure that our race was a success. It is not by accident that the race is a success but it is due to the hard work put in by the race committee leading up to the race, as well as by the individual members who sacrifice their time to ensure the success of the race.

Thank you.

From the Chairman

by Alan Gibb (Chairman)

Greetings Stella members,

Welcome to the Stella blog. I am particularly excited to see the start of this blog as it is a fantastic opportunity for the committee, and the club to share their experience as well as keep members informed of developments within the club.

As with most of the clubs I interact with, we are facing some challenges. People do not really want to belong to clubs and so choose to either run in races on temporary licenses or belong to “virtual clubs”. These clubs, whilst they serve a purpose, do not, I believe, further the sport of running. If one looks at the wonderful work done by various members of the club to get walkers running or beginners to complete their first race, then I believe a good strong club, with active members, is the way forward for the sport. In my view, Stella certainly offers what every level of runner could possibly need. We have many training groups both formal and informal that cater to every level of runner.

It is also particularly pleasing to see the number of young people joining the club. The future of the club is young people, and we need to encourage young people to join us and be part of the club.

The committee works very hard behind the scenes to make your membership good value for money and doing the best that we can for our runners. We have secured a site at the Comrades finish where our runners can congregate at the end of the race. We will keep you advised of the exact location of the site in due course. We also sent a group of runners to Buffalo City marathon and talking to the runners they all had a good time. The times were also impressive!

The committee has recently re-designed our kit, and the vests are now available at Durban Runner Glenwood. We believe that the modern design stays true to the roots of Stella but is much more vibrant and eye-catching. Please keep your eye out for the vests and give us your feedback. We are in the process of ordering shorts and will let you know when they are available.

Please remember that committee members are always at the club so feel free to approach anyone of them with ideas, input or even complaints that you might have, and we will do our best to address them for you.

I hope that you all achieve your running goals for this year, and I will see you on the road.