LEAN ON ME
by Michelle Carnegie
05 August 2017
Family bonding usually takes place over leisurely lunches and sunny beach holidays. But for one family it all happens on a 160km stretch of road between Port Alfred and East London in the Eastern Cape.
The Washie 100 Miler is a grueling 160km running race held each year in the Eastern Cape, and is seen as one of South Africa’s toughest long distance events. Two South African brothers, who don’t get too see each other that often, decided to use the 2017 event to not only achieve something extraordinary, but to also share their love of running, whilst catching up on lost time.
What makes their story even more remarkable is that their 65-year-old father and biggest supporter waited for them at the finish line. And he knew exactly what his sons had experienced, because he has finished this same race twice, the last finish being alongside one of his sons.
Training and planning
When brothers Desmond and Jan Bekker decided to tackle the Washie 100 Miler together this year, their father, Cyril, was initially going to join his two boys. Unfortunately Cyril got sick and had to undergo a heart valve replacement. The brothers kept their pact and so the training and planning for the big event kicked off.
Because they live hundreds of kilometers apart, Jan uploaded all his training runs onto Strava so that the more experienced Desmond could keep a watchful eye on it all to make sure their pace was on par. Family and friends all came together with a sponsored vehicle and drinks. Everything was planned to the very last detail.
Though both brothers are no strangers to long distance events, having both completed events such as the Comrades Marathon, they knew the Washie 100 Miler was not going to be a walk in the park.
Race Day and Night
Article Keywordswashie 100 miler
Just before 5pm on July 7th, Desmond and Jan set off for their first Washie together. They were equally matched in pace for the first half. “We were chatting, joking and keeping our minds occupied until we crossed the halfway point at 02:25am. We refreshed with clean clothes and had some soup.”
Soon they were off again but things drastically changed for the worst as Jan became pale and struggled to breathe. He also felt great pain in his hip joints and the pace drastically slowed down. “We reached the 50km to go mark just after sunrise and we were about 10km behind schedule. At this point our parents also came out to support us and our support crew grew bigger. The heat became a bit of a factor but our support crew came up with a brilliant idea running next to us carrying a beach umbrella for shade,” says Desmond. The brothers ran their third 40km segment in over 7 hours which meant they were about 2 hours behind their scheduled time, yet they still pushed ahead.
Soon East London came into view. “We knew we were basically home. We finished with hands up in the air in a time of 22:51, and in 23rd and 24th position out of a field of 66 finishers, and 86 starters. What a brilliant feeling to have finished this with my brother! Now he can also wear the sought after finishers jacket.”
He can’t explain the sense of pride he felt crossing the line with his brother, says Desmond. “I felt very proud of Jan who pushed on despite being sick, just because he did not want to let me down. I am so proud to call him my brother.” Their father waited at the finish line with a cold beer for each.
“Our long term dream is to each complete 5 Washies to achieve our permanent numbers, and of course to run the race alongside our father next year.”
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