Comrades fatality’s grit

2014-06-11 00:00

“JUST another 100  metres! You can do it. Just 80 more. Come on! Just 70.”

This is how Craig Blaauw (29) tried to encourage Louis du Preez (38) in this year’s Comrades while he half carried, half dragged his fellow runner to the finish line.

But with only 50 metres left Du Preez’s legs gave out and he fainted.

Paramedics transported him to the intensive care unit in St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban, where he died a week later on June 8.

He is the seventh Comrades runner to have died as a result of the marathon since it was first run in 1921 and is the first athlete to succumb to the rigors of the race since 2007.

Blaauw, who is a member of the Pentagon Pistols running club in Bloemfontein, could see at 250 metres out from the stadium that Du Preez was struggling. “He was very disoriented and pale. He was running diagonally across the road and lifted his knees very high. When you see something like that …” He sighed. “Your heart goes out to him — you want to help.”

About 150 metres before the finish line Du Preez fell for the first time. “I pulled his hand over my shoulder and held him. Another runner held his hips. Together we helped him to about 50 metres from the finish line, but when we came around the corner, he fainted.”

Although both runners were willing to finish the marathon with Du Preez, the paramedics told them they could not support him any further.

“That is being a comrade. At that stage of the run you don’t care about anything any more.

“You don’t have legs to do what you so dearly want to do. But when you see someone who is suffering even more [than you], you want to help them finish. Then your own time does not matter any more.”

After Blaauw finished with five minutes to spare for a bronze medal, he turned back to find Du Preez. He found him were he had left him, paramedics still clustered around him.

He was shocked yesterday when he heard Du Preez had died. “You push yourself so hard and so far to finish. Louis paid for it with his life at the end.”

Blaauw said Du Preez’s fighting spirit had made a giant impression on him in the few minutes they ran together.

“I saw his fighting spirit. He was so determined to finish. If it was me I would have been resting by the side of the road. I did, too, earlier in the run. But Louis — he did not want to give up.

“He also ran for a good cause — Sudan4Jesus. He is for me an example of a real man. He ran for the glory of God, that is why he was do determined.

“I honour him for that.”

Tinus Marais, chairperson of the Magnoalia Road Runners, of which Du Preez was a member, said it was suspected Du Preez had an undetected viral infection that led to organ failure.

“Everyone thought he would get better,” he said.

It was Blaauw’s second Comrades and he plans to run up next year.

Du Preez is survived by his wife Annalie (38), and his two children, Megan (16) and Ruan (13).

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.