I Now Know
Why They Call It
Whether you cycle professionally, to stay fit or just to be social, the 94.7 Cycle Challenge is a great option. I entered the race for the first time this year and plan to do it again next year, the Lord willing and finance allowing.
My daughter-in-law, Sara, rode with me and it was her first race of any kind. She is planning to be there again next year also.
The route is circular starting on the M1 leading into Joburg and finishing at the picturesque Waterfall Estate. It mostly follows main thoroughfares around Joburg but briefly juts into a historic section of the city centre before following the Nelson Mandela Bridge out of the city and along what is deceptively referred to as a rolling track which includes several types of roads: four lane stop-start highways, freeways (national and metro) and two lane roads in both residential and rural areas.
The list of high points is quite long and combined they helped create a great atmosphere for a road race. All credit goes to the organizers and to Joburgers for making that possible. The synergy was remarkable.
There were ten official water points all providing refreshments, mechanical assistance, medical support and physio treatment. The longest distance to any table was 15 kilometers and that was the first two tables following the start. All other tables were separated by no more than 10 kilometers. Several were only 5 kilometers apart.
Loads of additional, yet unofficial, tables provided refreshments, toilets, mechanical assistance and encouragement, all sponsored by small businesses and friendly people and at least one provided great humor. It featured a sign that read “EPO sponsored by Lance.” I got a good laugh out of that and later learned they were giving out shots of Tequila.
The ambiance was great! Hundreds of braaing spectators set up gazebos along the route and clapped and cheered riders on. Even large corporations set up additional stands to support the race and these stands really stood out. Organizers referred to these stands as “Power Zones.” They were so impressive, Sara and I paused at one thinking it was a water table but kept moving once we realized we were in the wrong spot. It was encouraging, however, to know the community was coming out to spend their morning – and afternoon – watching us ride. Read moreComrades is certainly one of the more grueling. It is definitely the king of road races in South Africa.
The route runs between Durban on the Indian Ocean – sea level – to Pietermaritzburg and crosses a terrain which rises and falls several times, reaching almost 900 meters above sea level at one point.
And to make things worse, there is a time limit – argh! You must finish within 12 hours to get a medal and finishing in that time is not a given. Over fifty percent of the runners finish in the last hour and several finish late. Many don’t make it at all.
The race is run in both directions. Sometimes up – Durban to PMB – and sometimes down but don’t kid yourself, even down is no piece of cake. The record times for each are only 5 minutes apart.
In spite of these limitations it has become one of the most popular races going and this year registrations reached a record high of 19,617 for an up run. Approximately 1,300 runners came from overseas. Considering the length and difficulty of the course, and how far South Africa is from the rest of the world, those numbers are impressive.
One of the international entrants was my friend Ritchie Miller from Avalon Church in McDonough, Ga. It was his first Comrades, his longest marathon and his most difficult run ever. He didn’t complete the race in regulation time but the cause he ran for compelled him to make it across the finish line.
He ran to raise money for charity:
- Those supported through his church’s ministry, Avalon Hope
- And the SACRP – South African Children’s Resiliency Project – otherwise known as CRP. The CRP is the brain child of Dr. Robert Graham who is a US citizen and highly qualified but has dedicated himself to the cause of African children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
The neat thing about this race is the route runs right by the CRP orphan village and because roads are closed for the race, the occupants of the village have no choice but to sit beside the road cheering the runners on, and sipping cool drinks of course.
But back to Ritchie. Read more
Filed under: Personal Failure, Sport
No, I don’t believe God watches football or any other sport for that matter – even though Dallas fans suggest the Boys are His team – but maybe He does keep score. Not the score on the field but the one tallied from life outside the game.
And, no, I don’t think opposing sides in any match can be strictly represented as “The Good Guys vs The Bad Guys,” but one bad apple can smudge the image of an entire team.
We really need to broaden our thinking. Integrity does influence the outcome in any competition and football, like any other sport is complex and therefore, far more than “just a game.” It is multi-dimensional to say the least:
- It’s a buisness.
- A means of income and those who win take home the most.
- A measure of achievement.
- An exhibition of camaraderie.
- A great source of entertainment.
- As well as a means of modeling good character, or bad, as the case may be – on and off the field of play.
And the most recent Super Bowl, XLV-2011, illustrates the point well. Both teams, Green Bay and Pittsburgh, are hard working teams that match up well. Lots of talent, experience and heart on both sides of the ball. There wasn’t much to separate them at the start.
One team, however, had a flaw which is difficult to overcome. A high profile, stand out player, Big Ben, was charged not once but twice with sexual assault the most recent happening in March 2010. In the 2010 case, which involved a 20 year old college student, the charges were dropped but unfortunately for Ben the smear didn’t go away. Read more
Filed under: Sport
Let’s face it. There is no shortage of talent in the Ryder Cup Squads. On paper the scores should always be tight and there should never be runs like Europe had before the 2008 Cup – won by the Americans only after loosing three straight.
Until European players joined the British/Irish team in 1979 for the biennial test, USA was almost guaranteed to win. Previous to that, British wins could be counted on one hand and the addition of Ireland in 1973 didn’t help much. But since the inclusion of Europe things have really changed.
The tension surrounding each cup has become palpable. The Europeans seem to have a mental edge that puts the US players on alert from the start. Whatever nerves plague the Europeans don’t last long. They are soon resolutely marching up the fairways pounding out impossible strokes that rival the shot making of any player in any other tournament. It’s unreal. It’s almost miraculous.
Why is that? What makes that happen? Read more
Filed under: Political Issues, Sport
I grew up in the States so Soccer (football) was something I knew little about. Kick ball was the closest I got to soccer and it was more like a foot version of baseball. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned about FIFA’s World Cup.
The most popular sporting events for American kids are national championships of various kinds: football, baseball, basketball, all of which happen on pro (private franchises) and college levels and are played on American soil.
Teams from other countries, however, often play internationally and are national not private. Competitors are developed through clubs and begin aspiring at a young age to represent their local and national governments playing sport. This marks a huge difference in the way sporting structures are organized between the US and other countries.
US competitors are developed through a collegiate system and are channeled into private sport franchises. As a rule they don’t grow up aspiring to represent their nation in athletic competition. That may be one reason the Ryder Cup boys haven’t faired so well in recent years. Americans aren’t as motivated to “play” for national pride as Europeans. Why else would Colin Montgomerie perform so well during the RC? Only in recent years have Americans begun to take nation-based competition seriously and we’re still trying to master the mindset.
Interestingly, it wasn’t until the European Ryder Cup teams began beating the slap out of the US that American spectators started paying attention. Living in the largest sporting bubble on planet earth produced a sense of invincibility which the Ryder Cup experience proved was more imagined than real. The RC helped open the eyes of a sleeping giant that had previously been unaware of international possibilities.