So much for the Comrades Marathon being South Africa’s Ultimate Road Race! Ever heard of the Washie 100 Miler? I bet not many people have.

I hadn’t until I very recently, when I started running a couple of years ago.

And I had no inkling of just how tough a race it was until this weekend.

No, I did not run the Washie, at least not yet.

The Washie is a 160km race from Port Alfred to East London.

And, unlike the Comrades Marathon, it is not televised and does not enjoy any form of publicity.

You mainly get to know about it because you know someone who is participating.

That though is but one of the many differences between the races.

For whereas Comrades runners enjoy incredible official support ranging from numerous water points through enthusiastic crowd backing to medical aid that even includes massages, there’s no such at the Washie.

Every runner has to have his or her own support throughout the road. Crazy right?

No wonder then that the Washie does not attract lots of runners.

This year’s race had 83 competitors compared to the about 16 000 who lined up at the start of the 87.6km Comrades from Durban to Pietermaritzburg early in June.

I knew three of those 83 participants, two of them being my club-mates at the Fat Cats Athletic Club.

The trio completed the race in which competitors are given 26 hours - from Friday 5pm to the nex day at 7pm - to finish. Yes, 26 hours.

Who in their right mind runs for a day and two hours?

Well Afrika Tau and Thulani Mbele (my clubmates) plus Siphokazi Menziwa (of Born to Run) where among those people who surely are a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

Afrika for one immediately gives the impression of a crazy guy. He runs all his races in a pink tutu and is as loud as they come.

But what a guy!

His runs raise funds for the Pink Drive, a charitable organisation that raises funds in the fight against cancer. And this is why.

“I started running after a health scare last August when my doctor told me to get on chronic medication for high blood pressure and cholestrol or change my lifestyle immediately.

"I chose the latter so I literally run for my life.

"I have always had a passion for charity work but last year I lost two friends younger than 40 to cancer and that’s how I started to run for the Pink Drive and wear the tutu, a very tough decision.”

His is an incredible story of what the human body is capable of and he is personification of the adage ‘anything is possible if you set your mind to it'.

Afrika ran his first 25km and it was because he missed the turn off for the 15km run and ended up running the extra five kilometres.

“I was just following the runners and got told late that I had taken the wrong turn. I decided to just complete it, even if I walked.”

That spirit saw him move up to the marathon and then decide to go big within a year and chose to do both the Comrades and the Washie.

In his inimitable way he challenged us (about three weeks ago) to join him at the Washie, and Thulani - a good runner who had a nightmarish second Comrades where he finished after 11 hours - incredibly took the bait as though he was going for a 10km jog.

It was an incredible experience following them throughout the race this weekend as they updated us of their progress throughout, At one stage Thulani had to take a 40 minute nap having also had to change his shoes and get his feet massaged.

But they both persevered and completed the race in 24h44 minutes and 25h15 minutes respectively.

To say they have inspired a lot of runners would be an understatement. And going forward, you can bet the Washie is going to be the ultimate road race for many a road runner - this one included.

The Star