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uMhlanga runner tackles Comrades for a cause

Matthew Withers ran the 90km distance to raise money for friend, Sally Hurst.

UMHLANGA resident Matthew Withers (31) joined thousands of runners in ‘Race the Comrades Legends’ a virtual version of the Comrades Marathon held on Sunday.More than 6000 runners from across the globe entered the event.

Most entries came from South Africa, with 5261 locals taking up the challenge, while 329 entries came from Brazil, 100 from the United Kingdom, 65 from the USA, 54 from Australia, 31 from Germany, 18 from Canada, 18 from India, 17 from Zimbabwe, and 13 from Russia.

Withers selected the 90km distance, running to raise money for friend, Sally Hurst. He completed the marathon in 10 hours and 26 minutes.

“It wasn’t something I planned to do, but during the lockdown, I started running with my next door neighbour who has run the Comrades many times. Then, my good friend Sally Hurst got really sick with a life threatening infection and went into toxic shock. She was in hospital for a month.

She doesn’t have any medical aid and I decided I needed to do something and use the training I did in lockdown for something positive,” said Withers.In level 5 lockdown, Withers ran 320km in one month.

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“That was before we were allowed to exercise on the road. I was trying to do 10km per day. I had a route that was about 400m, so I did more than 20 laps a day. It wasn’t the physical side that was challenge, it was the mental side, because you do the same thing over and over,” he said.

Neighbour Trevor Kieck who has 21 Comrades Marathons and 26 Dusi Marathons under his belt, cycled alongside Withers as he took on the mammoth challenge.”I am supporting Matthew in a noble cause,” he said.Withers selected Crusaders Paddling Club at Blue Lagoon for his start and finish line.

“My route went from Blue Lagoon to uMgeni Bird Park, back to Blue Lagoon, on to uShaka and back to the paddling club. One lap is about 24 km so I ran four and a half loops,” he said.

“With the virtual comrades, you have to have a GPS tracker. You’ve got 24 hours to complete the marathon and upload your distance,” he added.

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Withers said he has never attempted such a long marathon before.

“The furthest I’ve ever run before this was 42 km, that was two years ago and that was tough,” he said.He prepared for the 90km run by carb loading.

For more information about Withers’ fundraiser, log on to his back-a-buddy page, Run4SistaSal.

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