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Gauteng Marathon – We Came We Saw We Conquered!

by on September 6, 2012

I found out about this race at the Comrades Expo this year and, as with any race we are looking at, the first thing is to check the prize money.   I was floored at an offering of ZAR250 000 for a win in the Marathon for men  and woman. This was then going to be the richest marathon distance race in South Africa.

As soon as Comrades was over I began putting plans in place for this race. I had informed my athletes in Kenya and had them train specifically for this race. Two weeks before the race we would select the athletes we felt were in the best shape to win the race.

A lot of things happen behind the scenes to get an athlete to a race. As with races in SA none pay for flights and accommodation for Elite athlete, so we had to fund the whole trip ourselves. This was going to be a challenge, as flights from Kenya to SA are around ZAR5500 per person. My idea here was to bring in 8 men and 3 women to the race, as I wanted to completely dominate this event. I contacted some of the professional clubs here in SA to see if they wanted the athletes to run in the colours and then can assist with some of the race expenses, but they all said this was going to be a shocking race, bad organization and they hadn’t placed this race in the annual budgets for this year. So be it but I was still going to “make this happen.”

So I settled on bringing the three athletes from Kenya and 2 from Zimbabwe and 1 from SA. The athletes were, Kenya – Timothy Kibet, Ezekiel Tarus and Pamela Kipchoge, and from Zimbabwe – Collen Makaza and Munya Jari. Makaza then asked me to enter 3 other athletes from Zim, which I did, Portipher, Mike Ngaseke and Taipiwa Chingadai.  Petros Sosibo was going to run for the Vet category prize. I wasn’t too sure of these three but Collen is a long standing client and friend so was doing him a favour.

As race day got close we were scrambling to still secure sponsors for the race to assist with Travel, Accommodation, meals and race entries, as honestly corporate in SA just don’t get it when it comes to running. The total expenses were going to be in the region of R26 000. The week before the race I was advised that the vehicle sponsor would not have vehicles for the weekend for me, so now I was not sure how we were going to travel  from KZN to Johannesburg. Two days before the race I decide well no one or company believes in what I am doing so I hire a car and book the accommodation.  Mashel Travel in Kenya got on board at the last minute and sponsored the 3 flights from Kenya for me, with them guaranteeing the payment we could pay the flights back after the race. This was a fantastic deal so late in the game, so I took it. I must add that 32GI, supplement and energy drinks company, who I have had a long standing relationship with didn’t hesitate to send product for all the athletes. None of the shoe companies that I had approached in SA wanted to get involved and some didn’t even bother to respond, but running shoes is their business.

The only cash contribution that was forthcoming was that from the Maritzburg Sun Newspaper who assisted us with a contribution towards the accommodation expense.  But I was still in for R20 000 on the trip. But I believed in my guys and we were now doing this.

I drove from PMB with Petros and Munya on the Saturday morning, +-550km. The Zim guys had arrived the day before and the Kenyans were flying in that afternoon. Arrived in JHB dropped Munya and Petros at the Hotel and went to fetch Collen and the other guys. Portipher had decided that he was not coming to stay with us but elsewhere. It was as bit strange as I had paid for all his expenses for his trip. It came out later that afternoon that he had asked me to register him and assist him but he had actually called Mr Price and asked them if he could run for them. He hadn’t told them about me or me about them. This only surfaced in a discussion between myself and Cuan Walker of Mr Price.

I completed registration and then dropped all back at the hotel. At 15H00 I went across to the airport in JHB and collected the Kenyans and went back to the hotel.  We were all there now and less than 12 hours to start time. We were 9 in total with 2 rooms at the Hotel. A room is supposed to sleep 3 but we agreed as a group that we would just all squeeze in to save on expenses.  The guys cooked that night and by 9pm wanted to sleep. I chose the floor to sleep on, and at 12H30 I am still awake and seriously can’t sleep on the floor, but I did give it a good go. I suppose my mind was also working overtime as I had invested all the money into the race so we needed a result.

I left the room and went and sat in the Lobby and watched the clock tick by. Drank far too much coffee. 3H30 I went to wake the athletes as we needed to leave for the start by 04H15. Claude Moshiywa, Multiple Comrades Gold Medalist and Client, had said he will help with transporting the athletes as I couldn’t get  9 into a sedan.

06H00 and the race is on. I head for the 6km point to see if the guys have settled. Before the guys went to sleep I spoke to each one on their own about his race and how he was going to run.  Ezekiel was going to sit at the back of the lead bunch as it was his debut marathon and the rest were just going to run in the bunch until later in the race. At 6km I see RED, and for real was going to explode. The guys come around the corner and Timothy is off the front with 1 other athlete. 10m back is Ezekiel, and then about 20m after that was the bunch, with Makaza, Munya and Mike.  This was completely the opposite to what I had spoken to Ezekiel and Timothy about. But the pace was slower than expected so I let it go, and thought, right, you want to run in front from the start, I’m going to push you all the way.

All the way going from point to point so I can give instructions to the guys and I have the coach in Kenya on BBM and my Wife doing the Twitter feeds on BBM giving them updates. It was a frantic 2 hours. Thank goodness you can have a multiperson chat on BBM. Timothy keeps looking at me to see if he can go and I can see at about 28km he is getting frustrated. But I think this is good and tell him to wait. Ezekiel has now run pretty much in Fourth place on his own for the entire race. I keep pushing him to maintain. At 32km the gap from 1st three is 250m and then Ezekiel and then 250m back is the chase group of about 10.  Going into JHB central with 6km to go, I shout to Ezekiel in Swahili “Edna sasa” which is “go go now” the little guy all 5 foot 6 of him looked at me and smiled, it was like I just took off the parking break and he took off, I was amazed at this as it had been a tough race to this point and he then just had so much in him to accelerate the way he did. Maybe I should have let him go sooner? But I knew he was strong and would have the leg speed at the end.

3km to go I shout at him again and he responds again. I wait for Ezekiel who is now starting to look behind him as he is getting tired. I gave him a mouthful, as they say this is a family show so cant write what I was saying, but it was along the lines of don’t worry what’s happening behind you, just keep going, (having a chuckle), Makaza comes past and he gets it from me too and then I wait for Munya who is now in 8th. Munya is fresh off a 2nd place at the Mandela Marathon the week before, so he wasn’t even supposed to run the whole distance. But he was there so had to get him across the line.  Makaza was pushing hard, and I told Munya to catch Makaza as I know Makaza would not want Munya to beat him so if Munya could catch him they would push hard for the finish line together and no one could then sneak up on them

I jump in the car because by now I am still 3km from the finish and Timothy is probably 1500m from the stadium. I make my way through the traffic and get to the stadium, park and sprint to the finish line. For me at this point, I am feeling pretty emotional, having 4 in the top 10 right at the end.

I get onto the line and ask permission to be there which was granted and around the corner comes the little guy. He crosses the line and the photographers from various media houses and independents are snapping away.  I don’t think Timothy has experienced this before and was a bit overwhelmed and wasn’t sure what to do. He looked at me and half smiled and says to me, “sorry the time was so slow.” At this point I laugh and he thinks I’m crazy, but for me all I wanted was for one of the guys to win this race, I never once wanted time to be a factor. Timothy said to me a bit later that if I had let him go earlier he would have run 2H13 and not 2H17.

2 minutes behind Timothy was Ezekiel coming in, 4th place in 2H19, which was fantastic on Debut at altitude. What was so special about his fourth place was the fact that he pretty much ran on his own from 6km in, and had never raced past 21.1km. No one to work with or paced off during the race, just me shouting at him and running on instinct, so for me it was great Tim won but honestly the run of the day from any of my guys has to go to Ezekiel.

Collen was passed in the last kilometer and finished in 8th, which was great for his first marathon since Soweto 2010, as he has focused on Ultra Races. The preparation for this race was not only for a marathon but less speed and more mileage runs as he is preparing for the IAU World 50km on 20 October in Italy, so for him I was delighted with his result. Munya dropped off and finished in 11th in 2H22 which for him is a PB, but I know if I hadn’t let him run the week before he would have been there in the top 3, according to his times in training he should run a 2H13 / 2H14 at sea level on a decent course.

Claude sends me a message and tells me Pamela is running well and I hear the Stadium announcer say that the first lady is entering the stadium, and it’s a Kenyan lady. I didn’t see any other Kenyan girls during the race so naturally I think well this is just awesome, but as we look down the last 100m it’s not Pamela. Yes I wont lie I was disappointed as I really wanted a first in both races, but Pamela tried hard and finished in 3rd, which was fantastic.

Overall, it was a great race and I am really happy with the result.

This being the 3 Kenyan athletes’ race under my management I wanted them to show me they can run good times, and I have to say they did. They arrived with pretty much nothing. Pamela had borrowed shoes from a friend to run in, Timothy has shoes that are 2 sizes too big for him, and Ezekiel also borrowed shoes to race in. I had some things and pretty much dished out the sports wear I had taken for myself, so I came home with an empty bag, after leaving for JHB with T-Shirts, Tracksuits etc.  But this was the least I could do until I can get them a proper sponsor for kit and shoes.

We leave after prize giving back to the hotel, get cleaned up and the Kenyans get dropped back at the airport to fly home and the Zim guys head back to Zim, and I drive back to PMB.

Coming up, 23 September is the tough Township to Township Marathon and the 29 September the Mossel Bay Marathon. Watch this space for news. Big surprises coming up!

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2 Comments
  1. plustenner permalink

    was so sad when I read that some of your athletes did not even have trainers. I would love to help. What would a pair of decent running shoes cost in SA? I also have some spare running kit, all used, but still in good condition, which I am happy to post to you.

    • Hi Alma. Thank you for the kind offer. This is all a common problem across Africa where there are exceptional athletes that just need to be give an opportunity to show what they can do.

      I have to say that I get many many profiles from athletes that say they can run very good times, but we have to be careful that a large amount of these is often guys or girls just wanting a free ticket to another country.

      So my new policy is that they must come and run and show that they can run, because one can put anything down on paper 🙂 Once I now that they can run I source them shoes and kit from the suppliers so that they are 100% sorted and dont have to stress about shoes etc.

      This is what my vision is to try and get the talented guys and girls and give them an opportunity to show what they can do and then assist them to bettering themselves in all aspects of their lives. I have been at races before and have actually taken the shoes off my feet and given them to an athlete, even though they were not contracted to me and I didnt contract them after, but wanted to give them shoes to run in as they showed promise. But I simply cannot take on everyone but we do what we can to help others.

      It was nothing to me as I was given the shoes from Nike.

      But I thank you for your kind offer its good to know there are actually caring people out there.

      Cheers

      Craig

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