Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 160 August 2023 | Page 34

Janine Nortje being chased by husband Dijon to complete an important handover in Westville
Steve Gossman powering through Westville on his way to his first Bill Rowan
Ignatius Gorejena ( Bluff ) and Llloyd Sithole , working together to achieve their silver medals
Time to Get to Work
Shortly before 7:30 , the lead pack came through , followed by Gerda Steyn , which deserves a special mention , because let ’ s be honest , it ’ s Gerda , and I am a massive fan-girl … so much so that for a moment I totally forgot why I was there ! However , I rallied quickly when I saw the first Westville runners coming through , cheering them on , and it was incredibly special to witness the smiles on their faces as they heard their names being called . That was one of my top highlights .
Another epic moment for me was seeing Lloyd Sithole fly through Cato Ridge on track for his silver medal just six weeks after his podium finish at Ultra-Trail Drakensberg , followed closely by seeing my two friends , Steve Gossman and Janine , looking strong and right in the middle of the two sub-9 busses , chasing their Bill Rowan medals . I was fully aware that this was realistically the only time I would see them on the road until the finish .
“ Meghan and Shaun have just passed through Cato Ridge !” The warning I needed to hear from Lauren , because as much as you know who you ’ re looking for , the multitude of runners can totally throw you off . Even though they were still about three to four kilometres away , out came the magic green umbrella , making it easier for them to see me and pull towards my side of the road . Surprisingly , I already spotted them from about 200 metres away , partly because Shaun is tall enough to stand out in a crowd , and partly because those Westville red and white hoops can be spotted a mile away . I was ready , with Meghan ’ s sachet of goodies in one hand , Shaun ’ s in the other . They both looked amazing , strong and comfortable , like they were having an absolute blast . They slowed down to a power walk and in a flurry of movement , nutrition was handed over , jackets were handed to me , and then they were off again . Lauren managed to get a photo , which was duly posted to the ‘ Kings of the Road ’ group , followed by a checkpoint report .
Taking a Chance …
I then made a risky decision . According to the Comrades App , two more of my running tribe , Paula Symington and Carlo de Oliveira , were about 20 minutes behind , and I was concerned that the gap would grow , meaning this was my best and possibly only chance to surprise them with some support along the route . So , Lauren and I patiently waited for them to come through , cheered for them like rockstars , and then quickly grabbed our things , sprinted to our cars and got ready to fly to the next point at Alverstone Road / Phezulu , only to be faced with standstill traffic . It was now that I realised just how risky that move had been .
Luckily enough , we managed to get through relatively quickly and make our way onto the highway on route to our next stop . However , the pressure increased when I found myself taking a wrong turn and way overshooting the mark . Some skilled manoeuvring allowed me to correct my mistake , but it felt like Alverstone Road was never-ending , and I could mentally sense my two runners inching closer to the checkpoint , while the possibility of me missing them increased . We found what I thought was a decent parking close to the Alverstone Road exit , just as I received the notification to say they had passed Drummond . They were close , and it would be tight , so I took off running at what I am still convinced was my fastest kilometre of all time !
I arrived to see some Westville runners who I knew were ahead of them , and breathed a sigh of relief as I armed myself with Tailwind and took out my green umbrella , allowing myself to absorb the atmosphere around me while I got ready to cheer them on . As before , I saw Shaun and Meghan from a fair distance away and made my way to them , reminding them how amazing they looked before sending them on their way . A high-five to Lauren and we knew we were good for at least two hours until the next checkpoint at Kloof . I got to see two more of my favourite Westville members come through , Paul Pearce and Kylie Griffin , with Kylie making good on her promise and ambushing me with the sweatiest hug . She was thrilled that she was able to see me , as she had resigned herself to the fact she wouldn ’ t , because she knew where my priorities lay for the day .
Meghan and Shaun meeting Catherine at the first checkpoint near Cato Ridge
Images : Catherine Dixon , Lauren Ward , Karen McKenzie , Tony Calitz & courtesy Meghan King
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