By Mark Etheridge
There are few things in the running life that Frith van der Merwe hasn’t done… but believe it or not, she’s never run a Two Oceans half-marathon.
That despite her still holding the course record for the 56km Two Oceans ultra-marathon, and what’s more, having held it for an amazing 22 years. She also still holds the Comrades Marathon “down” record, set the same year. On top of that she’s still the third fastest SA women’s marathoner behind Elana Meyer and Colleen de Reuck and a former SA 15km champion.
Van der Merwe, now aged 47, comes to Cape Town on Thursday to hand out the Blue Numbers awarded to runners who have completed 10 Two Oceans ultra-marathons. She did the same thing last year and was inspired by the whole running scene on the day and so opted to be part and parcel of this year’s action.
“I went for a run while I was down in Cape Town last year but it was a bit frustrating withe the traffic etc and I ended up getting lost so I decided to do it properly this time out,” she said on Wednesday.
So what does 2011 find former Gautenger Van der Merwe who dominated the local running scene in the late 1980s and 1990’s up to? “I’ve been teaching English at St Andrews College in Grahamstown for the last five years after a one-year spell at Alexander Road in Port Elizabeth. I really love it here in Grahamstown, a nice mix of old and new people and it’s still got that small town familiarity about it.”
And the running — “well I’m nowhere near as competitive as I used to be but still enjoy my running. I probably run about 80/90 kilometres a week, nothing like those old days, but the good thing about that is that I don’t have any of my old stress fracture and hamstring injuries anymore. I normally run just two marathons a year, one at the start of the year and one near the end. I run the Friendly City Marathon in Port Elizabeth in the beginning of the year and then the Muirite Marathon here in Grahamstown in September.
“But I don’t set the world alight, I run between 3hr 15min and 3:30 most times.”
So what can Saturday expect to see from Van der Merwe? “Well it depends how much talking I get through, and I don’t even really know that much about the route but I would probably see myself as running a time of around 95 minutes.”
Spectators on the roadside on Saturday could do worse than look out for Number 62182 in the Run/Walk for Life colours, they’ll be watching a living legend in action.