Young, old and physically-challenged inspire at Midmar

2015-02-09 00:00

MANY consider the Midmar Mile to be a daunting task, but for a special few, it offers an opportunity to overcome ­adversity.

Perhaps the most inspiring story this weekend was that of 92-year-old Lorna Cochran extending her record as the oldest swimmer to have completed the race.

Alongside four generations of the Cochran family, Lorna swam the mile in under an hour-and-a-half.

“I am very tired and very cold,” a smiling Cochran said after the race.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to swim this year. I am just so grateful and ­appreciative of my family for being here again. I wouldn’t think of doing it ­without them.

“Having four generations of our family here has been very special,” she added while conceding it would likely be her last Mile.

A spritely Mike “Buthy” Arbuthnot also swam in the first event on the weekend. He told The Witness he was “feeling good” after finishing.

This is despite managing to swim a large portion of the race with just one arm, while struggling to use the other due to pain. “The conditions were really good, it was one of my better races,” Buthy said. At 83 years old, Buthy is the only person to have swum every single event since he helped found the Midmar Mile over 40 years ago.

Another well-known Pietermaritzburg family, the Katzes, cheered as Ingrid Katz finished the Mile.

Katz was paralysed from the waist down after a car accident in 1998.

“It went really well. My brother swam right behind me the whole way while I did backstroke,” Katz told The ­Witness.

“The beginning was a bit chaotic, but once everyone had moved away I was comfortable. I’m not actually feeling too tired.”

Katz said she would likely be back next year, and challenged her friends to join her.

Another inspiring feat saw ­Capetonian Tina Brenzel tow Grant Willemse, who suffers from Spina ­Bifida, along the Mile in a small canoe.

“I am building exposure for the ­Chaeli Campaign, which is an NGO that helps children with disabilities. I have done other events with him and I wanted to let him experience something new,” Brenzel said.

Willemse, who is fondly known as “Boeta”, sat patiently while Brenzel ­finished the race in an impressive 30 minutes.

Meanwhile a number of other ­disabled swimmers went against the odds to finish the race.

Single-leg amputee Carl Schreuder, aged 43, swam in the first event on ­Saturday.

Despite losing his leg in a boating ­accident many years ago, he has swum several Midmar Mile’s as well as ­completing the 8 Mile challenge.

Asked why he kept coming back, he simply said “I just love the race”.

About 115 swimmers entered to swim the 8 Mile this year, raising over R1 million for charity while swimming every event of the weekend.

But the event — which celebrates ­human triumph — saddened after 30-year-old Tristan Dennis went missing during the company relay on Saturday. He has not yet been found.

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