100-miler: Hilton man sets record

2009-09-07 00:00

TALES of human endurance and cameraderie amid the magnificent scenery KwaZulu Natal has to offer accompanied the gruelling 12th Midlands 100-Miler ultra-marathon at the weekend at which a new record was set by local athlete Craig Norris.

Norris of Hilton Harriers — a third time winner — completed the 160,195 km race from Winterton to Pietermaritzburg in a record time of 15 hours 21 minutes and 20 seconds, knocking nearly seven minutes off last year’s time.

The first woman home was Tammy Dennill, who came fifth overall in a time of 20:06:59.

Event organiser John Hall described Norris’s record run yesterday as a “monumental feat”.

It is a great achievement simply to finish the marathon, which is nearly twice as long as the world-famous Comrades Marathon (87,7 km), and to set a record is “truly great”, said Hall.

The ultra-marathon is organised by Natal Carbineers. Runners set off from Winterton on Friday at 7 pm, running — or walking — through the night and the following day in a bid to make the finish at the Natal Carbineers’ Drill Hall by the cut-off time of 9 pm on Saturday. Imagine the agony of just not getting there.

For one of this year’s participants, Khaya Mahlati of Durban Athletics Club, this agony was one second away from reality when she burst over the finish to complete the race in a time of 25:59,59.

Mahlati, whose troubles started when an old knee injury flared up after the first 25 km, told The Witness her “miracle” came in the form of race enthusiasts Stephan van der Merwe and Jan Shaw, who refused to let her give up and accompanied her for the last 40 km, talking her through her pain. “The last 20 km was dreadful,” she added.

Mahlati was determined to finish her fourth 100-Miler to qualify for her permanent number next year — the last ever 100 Miler for KZN. The race is being stopped after 2010 for safety reasons related to increased traffic volumes.

Another heroine to emerge this weekend was Gauteng mother of two, Hazel Moller, who finished in eighth place despite stopping for two hours when she suffered a severe asthma attack.

Moller said ash from burned veld near Estcourt may have caused the attack. She had alwyas had to deal with asthma, but her love of marathon running is all-consuming and she wouldn’t dream of giving it up. She has completed five 100-Milers and nine Comrades marathons. She is encouraged by her husband and seconder, Chris, in all her races.

Norris told The Witness that in 2007 and 2008 he did the Comrades as a training run, but opted out of the Comrades this year.

“I think fresher legs gave me the edge so I was able to set a new record.” He also highlighted the importance of his seconders.

A keen canoeist, Norris admits that staying fit requires commitment, but says he has the support of his wife, Jan, and two children

All the athletes agree — the 100-Miler “is simply the best”.


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