Spectators were treated to a feast outside the usual confines of long-distance athletics at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium over the weekend when a field of 39 ultra-distance athletes gathered with high expectations to set new personal bests and even international and national records in the gruelling 100 mile and 24-hour ultra-track disciplines.
The gathering was presented by Pietersburg Road Runners in collaboration with main sponsor Lamtrack and various other supporting businesses and individuals who pulled all stops in terms of preparation, organisation and presentation ensuring a gathering adhering to the highest and strictest international standards. Both events started at 09:00 on Saturday and ended 24 hours later on Sunday 09:00.
100 mile world age best
The existing world record holder in the 100 mile track event (men open category), Oleg Kharitonov, succeeded in setting a world age best (men, 50 category) in a time of 13 hours, 27 minutes and 27 seconds. His open record in this event was set in London way back in 2002 in a much faster time of 11 hours, 28 minutes and 3 seconds.
Kharitonov will also be remembered as the 2006 winner of the Comrades Marathon. He won the race between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in a time of 5 hours, 35 minutes and 16 seconds.
Astonishing record in the 24-hour event
After two months of preparation and living with the Polokwane host family, Johan and Corine van der Merwe, the ultimate winner in this gruelling event, Spanish athlete Ivan Penalba Lopez (23), improved his own Spanish record with a distance of 1,391 km. The man of small stature, but immense heart set the new record on Sunday at 09:00 with a distance of 249,324 km (averaging 5 minutes and 40 seconds per km) after circling the tartan 625 times for 24 hours planting smiles and winning the hearts of supporters and spectators.
Comment from Race Director
Race Director Colinda Potgieter remarked that the event showed the breadth of the sporting challenges and disciplines that athletics has to offer especially with these ultra-distance athletes confirming the extreme perseverance and abilities of the human body.
Acknowledging of records
The lap recording was done by electronic chip, with manual back up provided by local auditing firm Veritas Inc.
Story: WILLIE ESTERHUYSEN
Photos: ELNA ESTERHUYSEN