Cape Town – Carrying the flag for South Africa in the world’s biggest marathon is the realisation of a lifelong dream for Stellenbosch businessman Prieur du Plessis.
After 20 years of running, and numerous attempts to take part in the New York City Marathon, the 58-year-old was selected by the race organisers to represent South Africa in the event.
“It’s unbelievable to think how long it has taken me to get here,” said an excited Du Plessis.
The marathon will see around 48 000 runners jog through the streets of the Big Apple on Sunday as over 2 million spectators cheer on from the sidelines.
During the opening ceremony, he will carry the flag for South Africa among groups of runners from more than 85 countries.
“I’m really ready to get going,” he said.
But over a year ago, Du Plessis was sitting in a very different position. After securing a spot in the world-renowned event – a process that often boils down to a lottery – the Stellenbosch University council member made the trek to New York.
“When I got there, I was told it had been called off because Hurricane Sandy was on the way.”
Even now, he is watching the weather reports, but he said everything was looking clear for the big day.
For a runner who has taken part in over 100 marathons, finishing the New York City marathon will be his crowning achievement.
“This is definitely the biggest thing I have ever done,” said Du Plessis.
According to marathon organiser Mary Haskins, the South African runner was chosen to represent his country for his “enthusiasm and patriotism”.
“I told them the race is all about bringing cultures together, and I come from the biggest rainbow nation there is,” said Du Plessis.
If he finishes the race, he will join a long list of South Africans who have managed to complete the marathon’s 42km route.
From Willie Mtolo, who was the first South African to win the event in 1992, to South African Olympic marathon champion Josiah Thugwane, who placed sixth in 1997, South Africans have a history of success in the event.
Eastern Cape runner Lusapho April is looking to take first place in the race this year.
This year’s winner will take home $100 000 and a new car.
But flag-bearer Du Plessis isn’t looking for a podium finish.
“I don’t race against anyone, well, except myself, and even then it’s close.”