Who remembers those heady days in South African Athletics when, during the late 70s and 80s, we spent Monday nights glued to the TV, watching “atletiek” (athletics) on SABC? TV was new to most of us and some of the limited live broadcast time covered the athletics events around the country. Running legends, Johan Fourie, Matthews ‘Loop-en-Val’ Motshwarateu (so named for his forward leaning style), Matthews Temane, Johnny Halberstat and others wrapped most evenings’ excitement as they chased each other around the tracks in the mile. Any breaking of the four minute barrier was greeted with great excitement by commentators and households, alike.
So, what happened to track and field athletics? It took a backseat during sporting isolation. The focus changed. Comrades Marathon and, later, Two Oceans became the focus of running achievement in South Africa. Elana Meyer, 10000 metre silver medalists at the 1992 Olympics, commented that the regular questions were,
“Do you run Comrades?”
“Do you run Two Oceans?”
“Oh! So you’re not a proper runner, then?”
The South African mindset changed. A marathon (42.2km) is considered only a stepping stone to the ultimate goal. Many people run marathons almost every weekend in their build up to Comrades Ultra Marathon, to put it in the correct perspective.
By comparison, most of the rest of the world focus on the marathon as their ultimate goal. Many train for a year or longer with a view to participating in one or other of the major marathons such as New York, Athens, Boston, London, Berlin, etc. Many of the international running publications carry columns from contributors featuring “My first 5 miles” or “My first 10km”.
The focus is changing. South Africans are realising, again, that running is, in itself, a goal. Starting with five kilometre ParkRuns, the movement is swelling.
Many South African Marathons now offer shorter options as well. The Witness Maritzburg City Marathon, powered by Clover and Khayelihle, was one of the leaders in this concept. Starting 21 years ago with a 21,1km half marathon to compliment the marathon. Now you have the option of a 10km too. The generous, by South African distance running standards, time limits make this the ideal entry level event to challenge yourself at any of these three distances.
Each day, the Witness carries the next step in novice training to complete the 21,1km or 42,2km. Coach Norrie Williamson will add the novice 10km training program beginning mid December. It’s never too late to get off the couch and join the movement to healthy living and fitness.
Set your goal to be a part of the 21st Maritzburg City Marathon experience at the end of February 2017. Run or walk alongside folk from around the country and across the world.
You don’t have to go far or fast – You just have to go!