IT was 7.15am on a beautiful Saturday morning while driving along the R67 and seeing people setting out the road markers in anticipation of the Kowie Striders 27km from Bathurst’s Big Pineapple to the Port Alfred Country Club.
This annual event brings marathon runners from all over the province as well as further afield to the Sunshine Coast, and this year was no exception.
Driving up the dirt road leading to the Big Pineapple runners were warming up, old and young, ready to take on the challenge and thanking the Deity for the weather; sunny and dry, but with a slightly cool breeze that would keep the runners cool.
As 7.30am approached, the runners gathered at the starting line, anxiously awaiting the starting pistol and their journey from Bathurst to Port Alfred. As they departed, it was time to drive to the Country Club for the start of the Kowie Striders 10km run around the town.
Both races would end at the Country Club.
There was no lack of enthusiasm from the participants or their many supporters. At 8am the starter fired his pistol and the runners began their circuitous route.
In both races it was clear that, while some were running to win, others were just happy to get some fresh air and exercise. The front-runners were obviously anxious to come first, or at least better their previous race times. At the rear of the pack were those casual runners who wanted to complete the race but were less concerned with their times.
The music for the morning, supplied by Carlos Cruz and Rolf Kunitz, added to the atmosphere, and the smell of fresh bacon and egg rolls enticed the supporters, many of whom had travelled since the early morning to get to the Country Club.
Less than 40 minutes after the start of the 10km race the first person home appeared at the end of the long straight to the finishing line. Lonwabo Williams crossed the line averaging just under 3½ minutes per kilometre.
With other runners trickling in, just after 9am the first of the 27km runners arrived to take the honours with George Ntshiliza leading the way.
“It was a good race,” commented Ntshiliza as he caught his breath and wiped the sweat from his brow. Having just run 27km in just over 1½ hours, it was surprising he wasn’t asking for a bed to lie down on.
“It’s a great morning out,” said Country Club manager James “Foxy” Fox. “We need to thank our main sponsor, Buco.”
In the men’s 27km race, 37-year-old George Ntshiliza from Bluewater Bay arrived first in a time of one hour, 30 minutes and 28 seconds. Second place went to 30-year-old Zolani Mabhongo from Ikhamva AC in a time of 1.30.49 and third place went to 38-year-old Anele Maliza from Nedbank RC in a time of 1.33.04.
In the women’s race, first place went to 33-year-old Asanda Solani from Achilles AAA in a time of 1.59.27. Second place went to 52-year-old Christine Claasen, also from Achilles AAA in a time of 2.03.48 and third place to 24-year-old Leah Sloman from Madibaz AC in a time of 2.04.54.
The oldest competitor on the day was 76-year old Godfrey Kariem from Gelvan AC who finished in a time of 2.54.37.
As for the 10km race, the first person home was 18-year-old Lonwabo Williams from Tinarha in a time of 33 minutes and 13 seconds. Second place went to 20-year-old Siyabonga Kahla from the Mother Club in a time of 34.31, and third place to 16-year-old Sinethemba Merele, also from Tinarha, in a time of 35.01.
The first woman home and in ninth place overall was 34-year-old Ntombesintu Mfunzi from the Nedbank Club in a time of 40.55.