What was meant to be a fun day for an Athlone family last Saturday turned into utter grief just minutes before reaching the finish line at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon.
The family, a group of passionate and dedicated runners, had been training for weeks to complete the much-awaited annual event. But tragedy struck when a relative collapsed halfway through the race (“Wins and losses in marathon”, People’s Post, 3 April).
Saiedien Milward says although the family have come to terms with the death of Faroza Vermeulen, a member of Nantes Athletics Club, the memories still remain, especially for the youngest participant in the family to compete in the 21km run.
“It was my 16-year-old daughter, Yusrah’s, first run. I managed to catch up with her and she was full of excitement on the day. As we passed Southern Cross Drive, which was 11km through the race, we saw an athlete lying on the side of the road,” Milwards recalls.
“My daughter said the runner looked just like her aunt. I told her it wasn’t, but she was sure about it and had us stop running to check up on the individual. When we got there, it was Faroza, who was still breathing and talking with those who assisted her at the time. Faroza looked as if she was gaining her energy back.
“I told my daughter not to worry as she became traumatised. I said her aunt will be fine and that she should complete the race, as there were many people crowding around her to assist – this just to get the panic away. It was hard for me to see a relative collapse, but it was harder for her, a young child.
“She was really struggling on her way up and the scene of her aunt was a bit too much for her. I told her to cling onto me and so it went until the end of the race. She couldn’t continue any longer, so myself and a fellow runner, Nazier, had to carry her all the way. It was an unexpected incident for the family and only when we finished the race, did members of other clubs break the news to us that Faroza did not make it.”
The family thanks the public for stopping to assist Vermeulen during their own much-anticipated race. “A lot of people stopped to check up on her and assist, and this put them behind in the race. We thank them for this. Running has always been a real passion for Faroza, but the incident was understandable and we have come to terms with what happened.
“To add, she was known to be diagnosed with lupus and doctors say it was due to high blood pressure and short breath that caused her to collapse and die. It was just too much for her to handle on the day. We will surely miss her good and lively spirit.”
Vermeulen was buried according to religious rights, a day after the incident occurred. Various athletics clubs and the organisers of this major race have since sent their condolences to the deceased’s family.