A feast of ultra-distance track running is on the menu this weekend at the Old Peter Mokaba stadium when various esteemed international, national and local long distance runners will participate in 24-hour and 100 mile events.
R100 000 for record to be improved
The organisers of the event, Pietersburg Road Runners (PRR) are looking forward to the longstanding South African records in both races to be improved. To add extra motivation for these extreme runners, a cash prize of R100 000 sponsored by Lamtrack is up for grabs for any male or female athlete who sets a new South African open category record in the 100 mile.
This is the second time that PPR hosts an event of this nature. They previously hosted the event in March 2013. It was on this occasion that local ultra-distance runner, Johan van der Merwe nearly succeeded in improving the national 24 hours men’s track record of 258,063 km held by the legendary Wally Hayward. He came just 2,7 km short on this day but improved his record in December of the same year by running 258,063 km in Tapei, Taiwan.
Race director, Colinda Potgieter said the races, both starting at 09:00 on Saturday, might be the most special and exciting ultra-track event ever presented in the history of the country. “Not only have we assembled a diverse field of national athletes but we have drawn the attention of a number of international athletes, including current 100 mile world record holder, Oleg Kharitonov and the very exciting young Spanish athlete, Ivan Penalba Lopez who will be aiming to improve his national 24- hour record.
Big opportunity for local athletes
Potgieter said the reason for staging this event is not only to stimulate and enhance the growth of the sport in South Africa, but with a goal in mind to provide an opportunity for local athletes to improve the longstanding national male and female 100 mile track records of 11:56.56 seconds set by Derek Kay in 1972, and 16:6.56 seconds by Yvonne Sumner in 1982 respectively.
“Only nine men in history have ever run 100 miles on track in under 12 hours and we realise it will have to take a very special and talented athlete to improve the current record time. Doing this at an altitude of 1 400 m should make this almost an impossible challenge,” she said.
“We believe in making this possible and have convinced six athletes who have what it takes to run under 12 hours. These men have all run the Comrades Marathon (90 km) in times of under six hours,” he said naming Rufus Photo (5:35), Lucas Nonyana (5:39), Bethuel Netshitenzhe (5:43), Timothy Munzhelele (5:58) and Lutendo Mapoto (5:59). Martinique Potgieter who ran a Comrades in 07:00 in 2014 is, according to Van der Merwe, the early favourite to improve the female 100 mile record.
Support of community needed
Sports enthusiasts and people who appreciate the sacrifices made and determination displayed by long distance athletes are invited to support this event.
“As host club we have decided to do everything in our power to ensure that this event will be successful in order to draw the attention of potential sponsors and top international athletes for similar future events.”
The 100 miler as well as the 24-hour races start at 09:00 on Saturday. The pinnacle of the excitement should boil down to the half hour before 21:00 on Saturday when, if all goes according to plan, the winner of the male 100 mile race is scheduled to finish.
Story and photos: WILLIE ESTERHUYSEN