Veteran gold medallist to give his best shot for charity

2013-05-25 00:00

SHAUN Meiklejohn, who is 52 this year, ranks as one of the Comrades Marathon’s most consistent runners. Besides winning the 1995 down run, he enjoyed a top 10 finish from 1989 to 1999 (he missed the 1994 race).

He earned 10 gold medals behind Bruce Fordyce (11) and Alan Robb (12), to rank alongside the greats of the race.

This year he takes on his 25th run and is still a steely competitor, quietly going about his business and finishing well within the silver medal cut-off of 7:30.

These days he runs as a master and this year he is determined to wrest the title of first master home from three-time race winner Vladimir Kotov.

Meiklejohn has put his exceptional long-distance running talent to good use in recent years. Keen to give back to others, he has run for local charity.

Said Meiklejohn: “I had a six-year sabbatical from the race, finishing the 2003 down run and returning for the 2010 run to the coast. Since my comeback, I have run for charity. I feel Comrades and running in general have given me so much it’s fair to want to return the compliment to those in the community who need assistance.”

Meiklejohn has raised money for Run4Africa, an initiative started in 2009 to assist iThemba projects, particularly in the Sweetwaters community. The project provides training resources and educational support for young people, giving them a platform of responsibility and stability for later life.

This time around, he is the local hero for the Pietermaritzburg Community Chest and is keen to give the organisation his best shot on race day. “I guess they chose me this year as a local runner and I have been impressed with their work,” he said. “I am encouraged that every cent raised goes to someone in need. I take the view that every rand raised is one we never had before. Personally, I would be satisfied if I could raise R10 000 or more this year.”

After 24 races, Meiklejohn has amassed 14 silver medals to complement his 10 golds. He is one of those runners who has adapted to Comrades, a natural over the distance.

“With a full-time job as financial manager of a construction and plant hire company in Pietermaritzburg, I try to train all year. Comrades and Two Oceans are still the main focus with some other races thrown in,” he said. “I still try to get the most out of myself and make the day count.”

While mere mortals train year in and year out for Comrades, Meiklejohn does the business without any fanfare as one of the runners who can enjoy lunch with his feet up at the finish.

Last year he clocked an impressive 6:33, nearly an hour inside the silver cut-off mark, finishing 106th overall and second master. It’s astonishing that his worst time in the race has been a rather “slack” 7:16, on his maiden journey in 1982, which he did “just for fun”.

“A few mates ran in 1981 and it sounded like a worthy challenge. In 1982, we had a braai and a few beers the night before. I remember the run well as I couldn’t keep anything down. Whether it was the food disagreeing with me or nerves, I will never know.”

That first silver saw another six in consecutive years before he broke into the golds in 1989, finishing fifth in Sam Tshabalala’s year.

For the next decade he was a gold medallist, his last in 1999 when he finished ninth.

Seen as a Fordyce look-a-like on the road, Meiklejohn knows his golden days are over, although he does have a scheme to take him to 11 golds.

“Bruce and I run for the same club these days. Maybe if we ran the race as a relay team we could pick up another gold,” he chuckled.

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