‘Best Job’ winner in Comrades

2010-05-29 00:00

THE winner of the “Best Job in the World” is in South Africa for the 14th time in 13 years; and this time he’s about to run the Comrades Marathon.

The UK’s Ben Southall was given the “world’s best job” by Queensland Tourism in Australia. He was chosen from 35 000 hopefuls to live on the idyllic Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

There, he spent six months snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming, boating, paddling and the like — all at a salary of $150 000.

Southall’s job was to document his experience in a blog and to create awareness of the picturesque islands on the reef.

Queensland and KwaZulu-Natal have recently been named sister provinces, and Southall is thrilled to be involved in the partnership.

He now functions as Queensland’s tourism ambassador, going from country to country creating links between his beloved Queensland and other areas. Since his appointment as tourism ambassador, he has visited over 60 countries.

His love affair with travel began long before he was given the dream job in July 2009.

In 1997, while backpacking along the east coast of South Africa, he found himself stranded for weeks in Port Edward.

Southall enjoyed his time there tremendously, and in the years that followed, he spent half the year in the UK saving money and the other half travelling around southern Africa.

“It is so good to be back in Natal … the people in Port Edward call me a local by now,” he laughed.

In 2008 he set off on a charity mission to circumnavigate the continent in a Land Rover; he ran five marathons and climbed five mountains as he went along.

One of the marathons he completed during his adventure was the Comrades, and this year, he is back for more.

He joked that he hopes to finish “in the top 10 hours” this year; he completed his 2008 run in 10 hours and 20 minutes.

With his travel commitments, training for the race proved tricky. “I’ve been training all around the world,” he said. “Training in different climates has been difficult. I recently ran in Dubai where the temperatures were 42 during the day and 34 at night!

“I’m hoping it will all go well, and won’t hurt too much,” he laughed.

Southall is no stranger to pain. Just four weeks before the “best job in the world” was to end, he was stung by a jellyfish and ended up in hospital.

“I knew better than to go into the water in Queensland in December without a sting suit. It was a terrible experience, but fortunately I could get medical care on the island.”

But for Southall it’s all in a day’s work. And so is immersing himself in Durban’s beauty before tomorrow’s race. “Soaking up the sun on Durban’s beachfront at uShaka Marine World,” he tweeted on Thursday.

Southall joked that he managed to wangle a longer stay in South Africa because of the World Cup. “I just don’t know which jersey I am going to wear! England, Australia or Bafana Bafana?” he asked.

It is so good to be back in Natal, but the people in Port Edward call me a local by now. Ben Southall

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