Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 139, March 2021 | Page 15


Last Man Standing

The BackYard Ultra ( BYU ) requires athletes to run 6.7 kays every hour , on the hour , for as long as possible , until the last man standing is the winner . Murray & Roberts ’ Wandisile Ngodlwana did that for 31 hours non-stop , winning the title of the inaugural event in the new series at Van Gaalen ’ s Farm in the Magaliesberg , on a testing route . That meant he covered an astonishing 208.63km , and what made the performance even more astounding was that the thermometer passed the 36-degree mark at midday ... not once , but twice ! No wonder the pay-off line for the race is “ One More Lap !”
Images : Courtesy Wandisile Ngodlwana & Murray & Roberts Running Club
MA : What made you want to enter the BYU ? W : Firstly , I didn ’ t know anything about it until a friend of mine , Khuliso Mulaudzi , told me and some of our running friends that he would be doing it , with the aim to raise funds for Kusini Water . He said he planned to do 15 laps , which would be 100km , so I thought I would support him , as I am passionate about community upliftment . However , after donating to his cause , I and some of our running mates decided to go further than just donating , and run with him . ( By the way , details for the project are here : www . givengain . com / cc / khuliso-mulaudzi-runs-for-h2hope /.)
MA : How did you prepare for it ? W : I actually did not prepare for it specifically , I just did my normal training . However , I decided to use BYU as a long run for AfricanX , which is the overall aim .
MA : What was the route like ? W : The route was fairly runnable . It was off-road , but not too technical . About 700m from the start , there was a swinging bridge across the river , and that made me slow down every time . Then you ran in between trees along the river , with a few small bumps . We made a U-turn and ran along the fields for about one and a half kays , before we got back in between the trees . Then as we proceeded up towards another river crossing and back to the start , there was the merciful shade of the reeds covering us .
MA : The heat was blistering ? W : The heat started becoming terrible every time around midday to late afternoon , with temperatures above 36 degrees . On the Sunday , around lap 26 , at about nine it was very hot again . At least I finished about lunch time , when I called it a day .
MA : Did it help to have the Black and Yellow club chairman Ed Jardim there , also participating ?
W : It was so awesome to run with Ed . He finished ahead of me on some of the laps , and when he was done with his laps , he stayed and supported me . On Sunday morning , he was one of the people who were there till my very last lap . He would come to me after every lap with that infectious smile of his , and say : “ Wandi , you are such an inspiration , keep it up . Just keep going ” He was the first person to congratulate me when I finished my last lap . He is a champ and a leader of note !
MA : Second-placed Riaan Barnard from Born2Run ( 30 laps ) obviously pushed you very hard ?
W : I have massive respect for Riaan . He speaks little , smiles a bit , keeps his head down and just keeps going . He is a machine with a diesel engine . Honestly , I had given it to him by lap 28 . I think every person who was there , cheering us on , helped to encourage me , but if it wasn ’ t for Riaan ’ s competitive spirit – and mine – I don ’ t know how much sooner we would have called it .
MA : When was it the darkest and hardest for you ?
W : It must have been about lap 27 , from 180 to 187km . That was the hardest for me , because the outer side of my right quad was so sore . I can ’ t say it was a cramp – I honestly do not know what it was . I ’ d never gone that far before , so I guess that ’ s it . Had it not been for my incredible team that looked after me , I would have rung that bell … a-la the US Navy Seals , who ring the bell to signal that they ’ ve given up . Overall , the deep dark night was not too bad . It was about managing my body temperature as the ambient temperatures dropped , so I just took ‘ naps ’ in my sleeping bag when I could . You must remember that I only had about 15 minutes to catch some shut eye at any one time .
MA : How do you top this experience ? W : Firstly , I would like to thank 32Gi for fuelling us during the event . Their G-Shot kept me awake and alert when I needed it most , at night . A massive thanks also to the team that looked after me with nutrition . I would not have done this without them . But while it ’ s a great feeling to win BYU , it was truly all about contributing to the livelihood of those communities . It was about challenging myself as well … but more so for them , and I thank God for such opportunities , even in these trying times when there are no races .
You can find more info on the Murray & Roberts Running Club via our Facebook page .