When he unexpectedly lost his fiancée last year, Morné Basson knew he had to do something in her honour.
Wilma Loggenberg had suffered from atypical pneumonia, usually referred to as walking pneumonia as the symptoms of the disease often go unnoticed.
The couple had met online in 2015 and Wilma’s death rocked Morné (44).
Because supporting motor neurone disease (MND) sufferers was a cause close to both partners’ hearts, he decided he would attempt to run 72 half marathons in 72 days.
“I was at the memorial service of an MND sufferer in the same church where Wilma’s memorial service was held,” Morné explains.
“Suddenly I got a word from God telling me to start training again and to focus on a new challenge.”
After the service, he stopped at a coffee shop and while sitting there, he says, he experienced similar prompting from God.
This time the number 72 was a clear part of the message.
The result was the 72 Day 72 Half-Marathon Treadmill Challenge.
“It's been a very tough year,” he says, adding that earlier this year Wilma’s father, Gawie, died after suffering a stroke.
“Life is short. Life is not fair. We cannot change yesterday. We certainly don't know what tomorrow will bring. Make today count.”
And counting, Morné certainly is.
When we chat to him, he’s completed a whopping 33 consecutive half-marathons and is in Durban for the next leg of his challenge.
Morné has partnered with Planet Fitness to smash the current consecutive half-marathon Guinness World Record of 52.
He started his bid for the world record at Planet Fitness Olympus in Pretoria on 15 July and since then has run at Planet Fitness gyms in Pretoria, Johannesburg, KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town. He aims to finish the challenge back in Olympus on 24 September.
“My body is taking a lot of strain from the repetitive workouts, unlike on the road where there’s a change in the surface all the time,” he says.
“But the human body can do almost anything – it’s the human mind that’s limiting us. My mind is stronger than ever!”
Morné, who lives in Roodekrans, Roodepoort, admits some days have been harder than others but what’s carried him through has been his faith, having a sport therapist on hand, good supplements and the support of the Planet Fitness team.
“Day two was tough because I started the challenge with a bad cold,” he recalls. “I was tired and had to watch my heart rate all the time. Days 19 and 20 were tough too because I had bad inflammation in my right Achilles tendon.”
But his resolve to complete the challenge for sufferers of the degenerative disease has kept up his spirits.
“MND patients go through a lot worse on a daily basis – I couldn’t quit!” he says.
Morné, nicknamed the Treadmill Guy, is no stranger to strenuous physical activity
In 2015 he became the first male to complete an ultra-marathon at sea. While working on the luxury cruise ship Celebrity Solstice in Ketchikan, Alaska, he finished the 90-kilometre Comrades Marathon on a treadmill aboard the ship on the race day.
Morné had wanted to run the Comrades that year but, being so far from home, he had to get creative.
“I contacted the organisers and told them of my plan. They thought I was being mad but loved the idea and supported me in my effort.”
That year he also ran to raise awareness around MND.
“The government, medical aid companies and most life insurance companies don’t do much to assist these patients. I want to show the world what these guys go through every day – the harsh reality.”
Morné has since started a Back A Buddy campaign to raise funds for a documentary he plans to make. He’s taking a camera team into the homes of MND patients to document their daily struggles.
Since embarking on his 72-day challenge, he’s been eating healthily, cut out alcohol and ensured that he sleeps well.
“I get regular treatment for my legs from the sport therapist,” he adds. “That helps for quicker recovery and preventing injuries.”
So what does he plan on doing after he’s beaten the world record?
Enjoy an ice-cold beer, Morné jokes.
“But on a serious note, I’ll have some special friends and MND patients at the last run to celebrate with me,” he reveals. “I’m planning something special. It’s a surprise . . . ”