Imagine starting a race as a 59-year-old, and by the time you cross the finish line, you are a year older. It sounds impossible, but it did happen.
Suzette Venter (Nedbank Running Club) was 59 years old at the start of this year’s Washie 100 Miler and 25 hours, and 32 minutes later when she finished, she was 60. She even changed race categories starting as a masters athlete and ended up being a grand master. For the last two years, she has been the oldest female athlete to finish.
According to Venter, there is no other way she would have liked to spend her 60th birthday. She had her whole family on route spoiling her, encouraging and even running along for kilometres on end.
“That is what makes the Washie such a unique race. I really would recommend anyone who is serious about road running to try and finish one Washie. It will certainly be an ever lasting memory,” said Venter who has completed three Washie 100 Milers.
To say Venter loves to run will be a slight understatement. She is addicted to it. In the last thirty years, she has run approximately 60 000km in training and racing. That equates to running one and half times around the world. The circumference of Earth at the equator is about 40 030km.
When asked how many races she completed Venter admits to not knowing.
“I will have to go and count my medals. I certainly have more than enough. At a rough estimate, I would say I have raced well over 600 times, doing more than a hundred marathons, starting the Comrades 18 times and finishing 13 of them. Next year with God’s Grace I hope to get my permanent number in the Two Oceans.”
The statistic boffins might be interested to know that her best time in the Comrades is 8 hours and 22 minutes; for the Two Oceans it is 4 hours 56 minutes and for the marathon it 3 hours 36 minutes.
Venter said the only challenge left for her as a runner is to try and get permanent numbers in as many races possible.
“More importantly I would love to be able to run for quite a few more years. I have been advised by doctors to stop running as my feet can ‘t take much more punishment. But as every serious runner will know we only hear what we want to hear. When the pain becomes unbearable, I just go and buy a new pair or running shoes to cushion my feet. Then I am off running again. I cannot imagine a day of not go out to run.”
Venter was not always a runner. At first, she and her husband were avid cyclists but all that changed in 1986 when she was involved in a serious accident, nearly losing her life. In 1987 after she had recovered she took up running.
“One of the most rewarding things about being a runner is that you get the opportunity to support good causes when racing. Over the years we have collected quite a few and for bible distribution and cancer.”