By CLEMENT DU PLESSIS
TURNING back the clock, Sam de Wet, 78, the Elsie’s River club’s oldest member and the first winner of its inaugural 10km road race in 1966, completed the race yet again after 50 years, at the Salberau Sports Complex on Saturday.
De Wet, in sailor’s hat and running in his original Elsie’s River vest, completed the race in a time of 1- hour four minutes and 23 seconds – way ahead of his expected time of 1-hour and 30 minutes.
His pace setter was Mark Cupido, a neighbour of De Wet.
De Wet was the country’s top athlete under the auspices of the South African Amateur Athletic and Cycling Union in all three disciplines (track, cross country and road) during the 1950’s, 1960’s and in the year 1970.
Competing mostly at the Green Point Track and Green Point Stadium, De Wet excelled in the 880 yards to six-mile races, which was also his favourite event.
The six-mile race is just short of 10km.
In 1966 De Wet won the first ever Elsie’s River six-mile road race in a time of 29 minutes and 19 seconds which was held in Halt Road. In doing so, he was the first recipient of the Gossard Trophy, which over the years had become a prestigious trophy.
Those days De Wet ran in sandshoes, and other shoes not conducive to road running and cross country races. But this did not deter De Wet – his scrapbook bearing testimony to his many victories and records.
To get back in shape for Saturday’s race, he has been training daily in the Tygerberg Hills on cross-country terrain for the 10km event.
“I have been running and walking a lot ever since I have retired from competitive athletics. I enjoy exercising in nature, and off the beaten pathways in Tygerberg,” said a fit-looking De Wet.
De Wet first considered walking the 10km but changed his mind to running the race.
De Wet had hoped to participate in the Table Bay 30km walk in preparation for Saturday’s race.
“The cancellation of that race has taken away some of my preparation for Saturday’s race,” he said.
The conditions on Saturday were overcast with a moderate wind “ideal for running”, said De Wet.