Nedbank Running Club’s Selwyn Matthews has pulled off the incredible feat of winning both forest runs staged on the Garden Route this year.
The local athlete blitzed the field to win the George Madibaz Forest Run with Discovery Vitality half marathon on Saturday, bettering the second place he achieved in his debut outing last year.
Matthews’ victory, in a time of 1:13:32, was made all the sweeter in that it came after winning the prestigious SPAR Knysna Forest Marathon in July.
The women’s 21.1km title went to Annarie Donald, who crossed the line in 1:34:30.
The 10km men’s and women’s winners were Sicelo Mashaba and Melissa van Rensburg, while Khanya Matika and Tnamsy Simon took top honours in the 5km race.
Hundreds of athletes turned out for the Madibaz event, which for the first time formed part of the Discovery Vitality Run Series, a programme of national races aimed at helping people stay healthy through physical activity.
While the weather may have been on the cold side on Saturday, Matthews’ run was anything but. From the start, he set a steady but rapid pace that ultimately proved too hot to handle for the competition.
“After last year I told myself I needed to put in more work so winning this race is nice,” he said.
“I wanted to win this race. I’ve always been with my running partner Lloyd Bosman but this year he wasn’t there, so it was nice to win it on my own.”
Bosman, last year’s champion, placed second to Matthews at the Knysna run earlier this year.
It was a case of first time’s a charm for Donald, a biokineticist from Hartenbos, though she admitted the win had come as a surprise.
“There are usually girls who are faster than me but they weren’t here,” she quipped.
She found the chilly weather to her liking but had to change her race strategy after learning that there were trails on the route.
“I had planned to start slower and end stronger, but I realised that wouldn’t work. So I decided to take the race as it is, going faster downhill if the terrain wasn’t too rough.”
As much as the presence of trails caught her off guard, they served as motivation to include more trail running in her programme going forward.
Race director Hugo Loubser believed the race had taken a significant leap forward.
Aside from the new 10km race taking in tough sections of the forest, running on mountain bike single-track proved to be an inspired move.
Loubser thanked Discovery Vitality for being a partner that understood the value of exercise.
“We are willing to put resources into this event so it will be even more popular in the future. We appreciate all our stakeholders who ensured the Madibaz George Forest Run was a big success.”
His sentiments were echoed by Madibaz Sport director Vuyo Bongela, who looked forward to growing the race in partnership with the title sponsor.
Mari Leach, wellness specialist at Discovery Vitality, explained that the series was part of the company’s behaviour-change programme.
“It supports small, local and heritage running clubs with the aim of helping them grow. It also presents an opportunity to recreational walkers and runners to gain experience before taking on the longer distances.”
The broader aim, she said, was to create a healthier society through increased physical activity.
With the addition of races in George, Plettenberg Bay and Gqeberha in 2023, the series now consists of 17 public participation events countrywide.
“We enjoyed the first race in George tremendously and loved to see people get active and have fun in the beautiful setting,” Leach said.
Vitality also valued contributing to the sustainability of running events.
“Our partnerships are about making people healthier. We thank Madibaz Sport for our collaboration and look forward to further growing the running community.”