A marathon a day …for 100 days

2008-09-26 00:00

Extreme athletes Braam Malherbe and David Grier who are attempting the impossible — a 3 500-km run around the coastal “foot of Africa” for charity — will reach the 3 000-km mark tomorrow as they head up the KZN north coast towards Richards Bay.

They made it to Durban on Thursday afternoon and headed out again today in what was originally described by experts in sports medicine as a physically impossible feat — running a 45 km marathon every day for 100 days. They have taken a break for just a single day of every week since they set off from Oranjemund in Namibia on July 1.

“Have a big dream, plan well and minimise the risks,” Malherbe said of both this “expedition”, which is known as the Cipla Spar Miles for Smiles Coastal Challenge, and a previous one that earned the athletes a place in the Guinness World Book of Records.

In 2006, they were the first people in history to run the 4 000 km distance along the Great Wall of China.

Just eight months before the beginning of this latest marathon run, Malherbe had major surgery to his knee and doctors believed he would never run again.

On arriving in Durban, however, Malherbe said the only real injuries were huge blisters and lost toenails. Putting on his shoes is the most painful part of the run, he added.

Although Malherbe and Grier have hundreds of yarns about all the fascinating characters they have encountered along the length of the coastline, they said the most unforgettable people they have met are small children they watched over during surgery at the Mount Frere Hospital in the Eastern Cape.

The charity that will benefit from their mega-marathon is Operation Smile South Africa, which provides free reconstructive surgery for children suffering from facial deformities, cleft lips and palates.

Malherbe said they wheeled and carried children into the theatre, watched the procedures and were there when the little patients woke up.

He said the looks on the children’s faces when they saw themselves in mirrors was impossible to describe. In many instances, “the before and after” didn’t look like the same person.

Malherbe said for each of them, this has been a journey within a journey. He said he wants to be a role model for the many disillusioned children in this country.

Apart from getting out of the kitchen and challenging himself, Grier (who is a chef) believes the entire run is about bringing hope to the country and showing people that they should stop pointing fingers at others and look inside themselves for strength and answers.

The 3 500 km run is expected to end in Ponta D’Ouro in Mozambique in about three weeks’ time.

Malherbe said that although another mega-challenge is already being planned for 2010, they aren’t going to reveal what they have planned just yet!

To follow Malherbe and Grier to the end of their journey and read to read their blogs, visit www.milesforsmiles.co.za

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