When Harriet Kruger was diagnosed with breast cancer , she decided to fight it with her running shoes firmly laced up , no matter how slowly she was moving . That saw her take on the recent Pondo Coaster Trail Run , and then she did something she wasn ’ t sure she was actually physically capable of , she ran the Comrades Marathon ! This is her inspiring story . – BY SEAN FALCONER
Slow ... Really , really slow ! That ’ s how Ballitobased Harriet Kruger ( 60 ) describes her own running , but she says she just keeps going , making the most of every kilometre and enjoying herself . And that ’ s exactly what she did at the end of May , when she and running partner Belinda Skinner teamed up to run the three-day 103km Pondo Coaster Trail Race , with stages of 36km , 34km and 33km from Port Edward to Port St Johns on the Wild Coast .
It all started in 2010 , when Harriet was still living in Johannesburg . “ I read about an event on the Wild Coast , then saw TV coverage of another Wild Coast event , and that memory stayed with me . I always thought it would be amazing to go run there myself someday . Then in 2019 , a Ballito clubmate did the Pondo and spoke to our club about it , and that made me decide to go do it . I asked my , clubmate Harry Botha if he would run it with me , as he has the same slow pace as me , but then the 2020 race was cancelled due to COVID .”
The event organisers , Wild Child Africa , offered all entrants the option to roll their entries over to 2021 , and fortunately the event could go ahead this year , before the third wave of COVID infections forced another increase in safety restrictions and cancellation of running events . However , Harriet had to find a new running partner , as Harry ’ s wife was recently
diagnosed with cancer , and so she asked running partner and good friend , Belinda Skinner , to make up the other half of Team Pole Pole . That ’ s Swahili for “ slowly , slowly ,” an appropriate name for the team that spent much of the three-day race bringing up the rear of the field .
“ I read about an event on the Wild Coast , then saw TV coverage of another Wild Coast event , and that memory stayed with me . I always thought it would be amazing to go run there myself someday .
NO REASON TO RUSH
“ I had made the choice to take it slowly – I ran when I could , and walked when I needed to . The race sweeper for the first two days was Rhys Foster , and he knew the area so well that he could point out all the landmarks . That really kept us going ,” says Harriet . “ It was also reassuring that he knew the route … They said before the race , just keep the sea on your left , but
it ’ s not that easy . Belinda had tried to download the route to her new watch , but she struggled to use it , so we were very thankful that we had the sweep with us .”
“ It was really tough at times , especially the first 18km on the beach – it felt like that sand was never-ending – but then we went into the mountains and trails and overall I found it most enjoyable . I must admit that I was a bit scared about all the river crossings we had to do , but we were actually lucky that it was just the right time of year for the rivers to be quite low , so we could wade across most of them , no need to swim them .”
Another aspect of the race that Harriet says she really enjoyed was the fun atmosphere . “ The focus was not on the winners , it was more on everybody having fun . The brilliant organisers of the race , brothers Matt and Tim , also ‘ penalised ’ teams for various transgressions and made them wear funny costumes or hats on
Harriet Kruger and running partner Belinda Skinner amongst the Pondo cattle
34 ISSUE 144 AUGUST 2021 / www . modernathlete . co . za