Pietersburg Road Runners (PRR) is in an advanced stage of planning and preparation for one of the most exciting and special ultra-distance track events in South Africa since the 1960s.
Reserved for 14 and 15 April in Polokwane at the old Peter Mokaba Stadium is a challenge to national and international athletes of high esteem to set new national records in the 100 miler and 24-hour track races.
According to club member Johan van der Merwe, national record holder in inter alia the 24-hour and 6 day national records and five time Washie 100 mile champion, the organising committee did not only assemble a diverse field of national athletes, but also managed to draw the attention of international athletes including the likes of the current 100 mile world record holder Oleg Kharitonov (11:28.03 set in 2002 and winner of the Comrades in 2006) and the exciting young Spanish athlete Ivan Penalba Lopez (26) who will be aiming to improve his national Spanish 24-hour record of 247,93 km.
“The purpose of the event is not only to stimulate and advance the growth of the sport in South Africa, but specifically to provide top local athletes the opportunity to improve the longstanding national male and female 100 mile track records,” Van der Merwe said. These records belong to our own Derek Kay (11:56.56) set in Durban in 1972 and Yvonne Summer (16:06.56) also set in Durban in 1982 respectively.
He commented further that only six international men in history have ever ran 100 miles on a track in a time of under 12 hours and added that it will take a very talented and special athlete to improve the current record at an altitude of 1 400 meter.
“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 6 hours,” he said and mentioned the names of Rufus Photo (5:35), Lucas Nonyana (5:39), Bethuel Nethitenzhe (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.
Van der Merwe revealed that local vehicle tracking business Lamtrack has offered a large sponsorship and cash incentive of R100 000 to any athlete who sets a new male or female South African open category record in the 100 mile event.
He complimented the company in general for their continuous support and development of athletes and added that this reward will serve as further motivation for participants to demonstrate their utmost athletic abilities.
Sport enthusiasts and people who value the sacrifices and determination of 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.
“Live video footage as well as the leader board will be available on the internet to any ultra-running enthusiast to follow the progress of all athletes during the event from any location around the globe.”
The 100 miler as well as the 24-hour races start at 09:00 on Saturday, 14 April and further serve as Comrades Marathon qualifier.
Story: WILLIE ESTERHUYSEN