WASHIE WONDER WOMAN
by Wilhelm de Swardt
04 August 2017
Imagine starting a race as a 59-year-old, and by the time you cross the finish line, you are a year older. It sounds impossible, but it did happen.
Suzette Venter (Nedbank Running Club) was 59 years old at the start of this year’s Washie 100 Miler and 25 hours, and 32 minutes later when she finished, she was 60. She even changed race categories, starting as a Masters athlete and finishing as a Grand Master. For the last two years, she has been the oldest female athlete to finish this gruelling event.
Now for those who don’t know, the Washie 100miler is a 160km event that takes place in the Eastern Cape, between Port Alfred and East London.
According to Suzette, there is no other way she would have liked to spend her 60th birthday. She had her whole family on route spoiling her, encouraging and even running along for kilometres on end. “That is what makes the Washie such a unique race. I really would recommend anyone who is serious about road running to try and finish one Washie. It will certainly be an ever lasting memory,” says Suzette, who has completed three Washie 100 Milers.
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To say she loves running will be a slight understatement. She is addicted to it. In the last thirty years, she has run approximately 60 000km in training and racing. That equates to running one and half times around the world. The circumference of Earth at the equator is about 40 030km.
When asked how many races she completed Suzette admits to not knowing. “I will have to go and count my medals. I certainly have more than enough. At a rough estimate, I would say I have raced well over 600 times, doing more than a hundred marathons, starting the Comrades Marathon 18 times and finishing 13 of them. Next year with God’s Grace I hope to get my permanent number in the Two Oceans Marathon.”
The statistic boffins might be interested to know that her best time in the Comrades is 08:22; for the Two Oceans it is 4:56 and for the marathon it is 3:36 minutes. Suzette says the only challenge left for her as a runner is to try and get permanent numbers in as many races possible. “More importantly I would love to be able to run for quite a few more years. I have been advised by doctors to stop running as my feet can’t take much more punishment. But as every serious runner will know we only hear what we want to hear. When the pain becomes unbearable, I just go and buy a new pair or running shoes to cushion my feet. Then I am off running again.”
Suzette wasn’t always a runner. At first, she and her husband were avid cyclists, but all that changed in 1986 when she was involved in a serious accident, nearly losing her life. In 1987 after she had recovered she took up running. “One of the most rewarding things about being a runner is that you get the opportunity to support good causes when racing. Over the years we have collected quite a few rands for bible distribution and cancer.”
Suzette sums up her love of running in one sentence: “I cannot imagine a day of not going out to run.”
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