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The athletics world is in mourning following the death of 73-year-old Jan Vreken who was knocked down by a car in a hit-and-run incident at the weekend.
Vreken, who has been described by family members as a man who approached life with a positive attitude, was killed on Saturday while out on his morning jog. He was allegedly hit by a car that sped off.
His son, also Jan Vreken, said his mother got worried when Vreken sr did not return home at 11am. “She went to the Moot Hospital but did not find him. She then went to the police station where she found out that a man had been knocked down by a car and taken to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital.”
When she got to the hospital, she was told a man in athletics gear had been brought in after an accident.
Vreken jr said his father’s death came as a shock to them – he had always been vigilant when he jogged and always took extra precautions.
“We don’t believe he was negligent. He always wore his reflector jacket,” he said.
With that in mind, he believes his father may have tripped and fallen in front of a car and been run over.
A petrol attendant at one of the garages near where Vreken was knocked down told the family that a maroon or red VW Golf was seen speeding off after the incident.
The family said although they were in pain, they had chosen to focus on the type of person he was and what he stood for.
“He was optimistic, he saw the best in everything. We will always remember him as a vibrant, strong and incredible runner who would coach and mentor other runners,” said his son.
The man who was loved by everyone will also be remembered for his ability to interact and socialise with anyone.
“I stopped at the salon where he used to cut his hair to inform them and one guy just broke down in tears. He was loved by everyone everywhere,” Vreken jr said.
The family said they would cherish his smile, his positive outlook on life and the passion he had for running.
Athletics clubs and athletes from around the city expressed shock at Vreken’s death. His running partner of seven years, Michelle Jordan, said she was devastated to hear how he was killed.
“He was a wonderful man who would take off his own clothes to give to someone who truly needed them. I just can’t believe that the person who knocked him down didn’t stop,” she said.
Christa Mouton said the world of athletics had lost its running dad. She said with his 25 Comrades Marathon medals, Vreken was a running friend who was full of wisdom and humour. “We say goodbye to a running legend,” she said.
Elize Brunette-Ndaba said this was very sad news and expressed her condolences and those of her club. “We will really miss him.”
Winnie Koekemoer said: “So sorry. He was always friendly and wearing a ready smile.”
A statement by CSIR Running Club said: “It was with sadness that I read this weekend that long-time Agape runner Jan Vreken was killed by a hit-and-run driver while out on a morning run.
“I didn’t know Jan well, but had talked to him as a running acquaintance through the road races.
“The CSIR Running Club sends its condolences on this awful loss to Jan’s family, friends and members of the Agape running club.
“For the rest of us, this incident once again highlights the dangers of road running. Please be aware of the traffic when you are out for a run, especially if you are alone. Not all drivers are courteous or even aware of runners on the road. Please make sure that you are safe and visible at all times.”
Police were not available yesterday for comment on the status of their investigation into the case or if anyone had been arrested.
A memorial service will be held at the Dutch Reformed Church in Queenswood on Friday, starting at 10am.