The first Virtual Comrades Marathon took place on 14 June, and featured 5km 10km, 21km 45km and 90km distances. FIT2000 Athletics Club organised the race in Bedfordview at Oriel Park.
The race had no official starting time, so participants could take part in their chosen distance anytime from 6AM for 12 hours until the final cut off at 6PM. All routes were on a 2,3km circuit around Oriel Park, as per the distances above.
Paul Selby from the FIT2000 Athletics Club, who completed the 90km walk, reported on his journey. ‘After catnapping on Saturday evening for 2-3 hours, I had to brave the sub-zero conditions at midnight when venturing onto the 200 metre track at my house because Covid-19 rules prevented use of public roads until 6AM. Traversing 170 times, up and down, around and around, I frequently dipped into a ‘cool box’ for water and supplements whilst being tempted to detour back to my house to join my wife warmly tucked up in bed. I somehow resisted and clocked up 34kms before walking down to Oriel Park in the dark, where an undulating 2,3km circuit awaited me in the frost of an extremely chilly daybreak.’
‘A FIT2000 colleague ventured out on the route at the same time and we soon realised this was not going to be a simple ‘walk in the park’! We had been spared the extremity of long steep hills encountered on the mountainous route between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, plus the quadriceps jarring and tortuous 3km decline of the infamous Fields Hill into Pinetown. The altitude gain on my course, however, demanded more than that of the Comrades gain in altitude with the added element of the Johannesburg ‘high altitude’ were the very oxygen that one breathes is rationed.’
Families from the neighbourhood joined in with children, prams and dogs, which made for a festive atmosphere compared with just the ‘sweat and toil’ normally experienced by all Comrades participants. Each lap offered a ‘self-service’ table where strict Covid-19 rules applied.
‘I had originally hoped that I could finish before sunset and, having watched the sunrise in the morning, it was going down as I started my final lap. After 16 hours of walking, I crossed the finish line to the sound of Chariots of Fire being played on bagpipes perhaps more attuned to the highlands of Scotland in mid-winter than that of the tumultuous noise of thousands of spectators to be found in the Moses Mabhida Stadium at the finish in Durban,’ said Selby.
‘I had made the longest journey by foot since completing my 24th Comrades back in 2008, overcome various health adversities, and in so doing became the only Comrades Virtual 90km walker but, above all, fulfilled my dream to cash in numerous pledges from supporters for food for the needy in South Africa, which made all of the suffering worthwhile.‘
The community supported the food drive with funds and food, which was sufficient to make up food parcels as in the below photo. This DA initiated food drive, in conjunction with the Bedfordview Safety Forum (BSF), Bedfordview Community Policing Forum (BCPF) and the Order of St. John, aims to assist destitute families in and around neighbouring areas. More donations are still coming in, and Selby said, ‘I am hoping that people will still support this worthy cause.’
There are 60,000 people living in informal settlements and seemingly tranquil suburban homes with little or no food. With the lockdown extension and level phasing, their circumstances have become desperate and potentially volatile. The goal is to be able to provide a lifeline to people who through no fault of their own are unable to help themselves through this pandemic. The distribution of all collections is done through a centralised point in a strictly controlled and safe environment.
A section 18A tax certificate can be provided for donations.
Should you wish to donate to this worthy cause, use the bank details below:
Bank: Standard Bank
Account name: St. John
Account no: 002900777
FIT2000 ATHLETICS CLUB fit2000.co.za