THE COASTAL CHALLENGE
Runner Vs Paddler 1900kms
AN EPIC EXPLORATION OF SOUTH AFRICA’S SOUTHERN COASTLINE AND THE HUMAN SPIRIT
On the 17th of May 2014 two athletes, one a runner and one a surf-ski paddler engaged in an extraordinary race. Starting from Cape Point they will try beat the other getting to Addington beach, Durban first. Steve Black the veteran Ultra-Endurance runner from Khotso Horse Trails, Underberg is trail running the approximately 1900kms in a hopeful 25 days. That’s 76kms per day, in and out. Clyde Barendse, the paddler from Durban that runs a national mobile bar and manufacture business called Barcode, has to cover less distance but is more exposed to weather and ocean conditions. Both men are members of the Mamu Loman Federation, an under-ground adventure group whose fundamentals are health and mobility.
Most multi day paddling marathons run for 40kms per day. Without digesting the magnitude of the task ahead I already have Steve pegged for winning. Steve laughs, and says the timing of the race suits Clyde perfectly as the oncoming winter will push the Agulhas current and assist him. But only until they hit Port Elizabeth and the tables will turn. He concedes that he might very well be a few days shy of Clyde, and then smiles confidently: Enter the toughest registered Surf-ski event in the world; The Southern Shamaal, a four day race from Port Elizabeth to East London. Clyde has completed the 244km up wind race before, which in itself is a massive achievement, but Steve looks at this part of the race as the ‘telling’ moment.
Why?! Clyde and Steve are hoping to generate awareness and charity for Nikki ‘Lettie’ Haynes battle against cancer. Lettie Haynes herself being a beacon of light and inspiration to many thousands of people struggling with illness. Steve says that next to her battle, his and Clyde’s task seems rather insignificant. Steve however beams a big smile and says: “It’s going to be fun – that’s why.” I believe Steve can do it. Fuelling the belief is also the fact that Steve has run more than a thousand kilometres on the trot before, so what’s another 800 or so clicks added between friends?
Can Clyde do it? According to Steve, Clyde knows exactly what he’s in for, and that he has what it takes ‘mentally’. Here’s a man that was chosen to be part of team tackling the great Kiliminjaro barefoot, not for his athletic prowess but his mental strength and ability to motivate people around him. Clyde himself confesses that; ‘sometimes just being stupid is a blessing and you can rely blindly that everything will be ok but I will be looking to paddle everyday where possible with a local group of paddlers with knowledge of the area and to act in support of the cause. Safety first on this one’.
Staring at almost 2000 kms in the face I would’ve thought a main concern would be fitness. I’m wrong: Steve quickly rattles off the names to some major rivers he has to cross. “You must understand, there is nothing and nobody for stretches and stretches on the Southern Coast of Africa. There are a few rivers where someone might help me cross, the rest of the time I’ll have to swim keeping Bull sharks and crocs in the back of my mind. Clyde will have similar toothy fears.” He also concedes that injury is also a major worry. Stumbling and falling for example could end up with him lying somewhere unable to move. This worry is compounded by the fact that he intends to run 20% of the time in the dark, either early morning or at night. For Clyde, Mother Nature on the open seas will present the biggest threat. Big oceans, swells, sharks and vicious head-winds are cause for great concern.
Neither Clyde nor Steve will be alone all the time though. At the start of the race Clyde will have a proverbial pod of friends paddling with him across False Bay which is well know for the great White shark, as will Steve on the road. Capetonian Andrew King will join Steve for the first of his 500kms, and will then peel away to join another endurance race in the Karoo, after which he will yet again join Steve possibly in east London. Steve will also be seconded by his wife Lulu, but due to the remote nature of some the stretches of coast, she might only meet up with him again every second day.
The Coastal Challenge will undoubtedly be a race of legendary proportions. The athletic ability of the two men is completely side-lined by the mental strength that must be exhibited throughout the race. It is this mental strength that exemplifies the spirit that lies in each and every one of us. Whether we have to run 100kms a day, paddle upwind for a thousand miles, or beat Cancer one battle at a time, we have the ability and choice to ‘never give up’.