From a runner who thought he needed a passport to go to East London and who only owned one pair of running shoes to the winner of the challenging Washie 100 may seem near impossible.
However, when local athlete and member of Pietersburg Road Runners (PRR) Lucky Maahlo crossed the finish line of the Washie 100 mile (160 km) challenge in a winning time of 14:10.07 on Sunday he proved the contrary.
Well-known local athlete Johan van der Merwe who has won the Washie five times could not participate this year due to an injury and his efforts to recruit a replacement capable of keeping the winning title in the PRR clubhouse, started weeks before the event.
“I was unable to find an athlete who has the determination and strength to bring the trophy home until my son suggested Maahlo who had finished third in a time of 15:20.21 at the 100 mile event hosted by the club at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in March,” Van der Merwe said.
Last Saturday Van der Merwe approached Maahlo at his home in Mankweng where he runs a spaza shop for a living. “At first he thought he needed a passport and secondly he had no-one to look after his shop but decided to get into the car in any case. We had to stop in Pretoria to get him a second pair of shoes and I lent him my watch for the race,” Van der Merwe said.
Motivating him in the car during the long journey to East London was easy as Van der Merwe knew his abilities. When they arrived Maahlo could not believe that people at the start and along the route knew his name which, according to Van der Merwe caused a feeling with Maahlo that people expect of him to do well.
Van der Merwe and his son JJ supported him along the route by driving alongside him. “Maahlo started very fast and his strength enabled him to break away from the group early in the race. He struggled over the last 10 km and JJ got out to run with him and to support him to the finish. He never stopped once during the race.”
Maahlo is overwhelmed by his achievement and Van der Merwe remains humbled by his efforts to push Maahlo to participate. “It is an amazing feeling to be able to identify talent and to get such results. The feeling of helping such a person is priceless.”
Maahlo was a keen karateka for 20 years and reached his second Dan grading but two years ago he was introduced to running and has performed well since day one. He ran his second Comrades Marathon this year and attained a silver medal with his time of 6:25.
“He is an athlete with a big heart. He has fight in him and has the determination to stick to his goal. I think he has more determination than I do,” Van der Merwe said.
The Washie 100 is an annual 160 km race and was hosted for the 42nd time from Cathcart to Buffalo’s Club in East London this year. Maahlo’s time places him 18th on the Washie 100 winner’s board.
Story: RC Myburgh