Historic KZN race’s new format set to challenge runners

2013-10-26 00:00

ONE of KwaZulu-Natal’s most historic races takes on a new format tomorrow when the course moves to the Mpushini Conservancy adjacent to the Msunduzi river.

The Duke of York 16 km was first held in 1927 by the then Pietermaritzburg Athletic Club. It commenced on a downhill course that started outside the Thornville Hotel at the top of Fox Hill on the Richmond Road.

Now in its 82nd running, the race will commence from the Ashburton horse training centre and trek through a double-dip in the scenic conservancy, including a crossing of the Duzi at Campbell’s checkpoint before the ascent to the finish at Bishopstowe hall.

With a total ascent of 450 m, runners are going to need to be in outstanding form to match the race record of 46:07 minutes that multiple Springbok Ewald Bonzet recorded in 1982. This remains the race record. Bonzet’s time was set from the Thornville Chicken Farms down Fox Hill to what is now the Harry Gwala stadium and averaged 2.50 per kilometre for the 10-mile distance.

Winners receive the Duke of York trophy that was given to the Pietermaritzburg Athletic Club in 1926 by the “Sons of England” of the Duke of York Masonic Club. The following year A Currie was the first of many to have their names engraved on the trophy. Although the race organisation was handed over to Collegian Harriers in 1933, when the athletic club amalgamated with the Martizburg College Old Boys rugby club, it has been run every year since, with the exception if the five war years. The race has attracted some of the country’s best known performers.

1965 saw the last of Dave Pipers’s seven wins, with Comrades gold medallist Gordon Baker securing the win the following year. Willie Mtolo won the 1987 race, two years after running a 2:08 marathon that ranked him amongst the top five in the world.

Women winners included Comrades winners Lindsay Weight, Nadine Harrison and Tilda Tearle. Kerry Anne Randall has the fastest women’s time of 56:49 set in 1993, while Grace de Oliveria won the race twice. Her 59:05 in 2000 is thought to have been the last on the Thornville Chicken Farm route.

Traffic and safety considerations have seen a range of routes evolve over recent years. This has made the 55-minute gold threshold harder to achieve, and even the number of runners dipping the one-hour barrier has decreased.

The new route could well see a number of aspirant Dusi canoeists use the opportunity for an early inspection of some of the most famous of the portage routes.

The race commences at 7 am next Sunday, from the horse training centre. Entries will be taken either at the Collegians Clubhouse in Boshoff Street on Saturday from 2 pm to 5 pm, or from 5.30 am on race day. Everyone finishing under three hours will receive a medal and a certificate, which will be bronze for those finishing over an hour.

There is also a five-kilometre fun run starting at 7.30 am on a circular course through the cane fields around Bishopstowe.

The 10 mile runners also have the option of a bus to take them back to the start and tickets are R30 per person. Andre Booysen has more information at 082 318 5137.

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