The Halfway Telkom Midmar Mile is in its 36th year and has attracted more than 17,000 entries over the last few years. This year the race tried to set a new record with the Guinness Book of Records.
On Friday 6th February 2009, my mom and I drove up and went directly to a shopping mall in Pietermaritzburg to collect late entry tickets for my 8 Miles Charity Challenge swim. The 8 Miles Game Charity Challenge raises money for charities and their aim this year was to raise One Million Rand. Needless to say, I was keen to be a part of that!
We went to the Bed & Breakfast in Pietermaritzburg that we were booked into and I went to bed early to prepare for Saturday when I would be swimming four miles.
On Saturday morning, we got up early, about 5am! to get our breakfast and prepare and to pack my stuff for the grueling four mile swim. Even though we left the B & B at 5h30 to drive to Midmar Dam, when we got there it was already a hive of activity. Everyone, officials and volunteers, were there preparing everything so that the event would go as smoothly as possible for the swimmers.
We bumped in to the event organizer, Wayne Riddin, who asked me (via my interpreting mum) to grab my bag and swimming cap and go with him. He also asked my mum to help him with the classification of swimmers to make sure that everything was fair.
It was a great morning. I saw my good friend, Terence Parkin, (Olympic Silver medalist) and Carl Schreuder, a disabled swimmer both, of whom were swimming this year’s 8 Miles, but Carl and I were the only disabled swimmers doing the 8 Miles. Back in 2006, myself and Peter Egner were the first disabled swimmers to swim the 8 Miles, me in my thirties and Peter over 60 years old!
We got into Wayne’s boat and he took us to the start where I met lots of disabled swimmers who were taking part in the 1.6km (1 mile) swim events including fellow Paralympian swimmers Craig Groenwald, David Coates, Tiaan du Plessis, Shireen Sapiro and Adri Visser.
The bell rang, calling all the swimmers to the water and Terence guided me to water. It was a bit warm but still cold enough to give me the shivers! So I got in and immersed myself and tried to warm myself up while we all waited for the start. Then the bell rang. Everyone swam off. Terence, Craig, Tiaan and Shireen zoomed ahead, everyone looked so excited to finally be swimming.
I was doing a long swim so I took my time and looked around to see where I was going. I couldn’t see the course properly so I swapped between breaststroke and freestyle to keep myself moving without stopping but still being able to find my way. I passed the yellow balloon at the 400m mark and kept on going to the 2nd yellow balloon at the 800m mark but I kept looking around to make sure that I was on the correct path and not swimming the wrong way! At last I saw the final yellow balloon and could see the finish.
When I got out of the water, my mom sent my crutches to me so that I could walk up and hand in my ticket to record my time. Then I went to the refreshments tent for a quick drink and a snack and sat with Terence chatting about the swim. Just 25 minutes later Wayne called us back to the boat. Same again, another 3 times until you have completed the 4 miles. Phew! When I finished the last mile I felt so tired, it’s hard to swim 4 miles with bumpy water sapping your energy. Fortunately there were lots of lifesavers in the water to keep eye on swimmers who needed help or just couldn’t swim any farther.
So, my times for my first four miles were a consistent 35 minutes but the last one took me 37 minutes and I came in 7th overall in the disabled men’s category.
I felt so tired. My mom drove me to the bed and breakfast and I stayed in the room watching TV until dinner. By 6pm I was asleep! ZZZZZZZ.
Sunday morning we woke up early again to avoid the traffic and at 6am we set off for the second leg of my 8 Miles. I met up with Terence again and we chatted about the 4 more miles. Terence seemed to have no problem with stiffness but my arms were really sore.
There was no disabled category on Sunday so Carl Schreuder and myself were all on our lonesome swimming the remaining 4 miles. Despite my sore arms I was convinced that I could swim faster times than I had on Saturday and I managed to swim a blistering 32 minutes on my first leg and a consistent 33 minutes for the other three legs. I felt great, much better than Saturday.
When I was swimming my last race I was so tired and my arms were killing me, but I just had to ignore my moaning shoulders and finish the race. And there it was. I had finished 8 miles of swimming. I felt so proud of myself that I had finished all 8 races!
It was my 3rd time swimming the 8 miles. I cannot even remember how many times I have entered the Midmar mile since I was in Matric in 1989 although I did miss a couple.
Wayne Riddin brings more disabled swimmers to swim the Midmar Mile every year and has been especially good to me and it is great to see how the number of disabled swimmers has grown.
I must say “Thank You” to Wayne who has supported the inclusion of disabled swimmers in the Midmar Mile. The event has also helped my mom because it provides a training ground for young swimmers and those preparing for up coming Paralympic Games.
Photos kindly provided courtesy of Actionphoto SA, official photographers of Midmar 2009.