A crowd of participants and their families dance along with GoodHope FM's Carl Wastie while being showered by light rain during the entertainment period as walkers completed their trek. Photo: Michael Walker

Barbara Maregele

FOR the first time in 20 years, a foreigner has won first place in the 80km walk for men in the Discovery Cape Times Big Walk, and a Johannesburger took the female section.

With a record time of eight hours and 54 minutes, Robbie Callister, 56, from the Isle of Man, participated in his first Discovery Cape Times Big Walk, which started at St George’s Grammar School in Mowbray at 3.45am yesterday.

Women’s winner Bernadette Eales was second overall for the 80km.

Callister said: “The rain was coming down heavy when we started and the strong winds made certain parts of the walk uncomfortable. I was invited over by some friends to do the race because I do a lot of road races back home. I have won the 136km walking race back home five times already, but I still enjoyed this one.”

Callister said he enjoyed the friendly encouragement by fellow walkers along the route.

the first guy doing the 80km to come in, they started cheering me on and clapping, which was amazing. It was a bit flat for me, but it was just as tough as the ones back home.”

Eales said: “At some point it was hailing and raining a lot, but I guess the overcast weather made the race a bit easier. I train with Run/Walk for Life, we have a lot of races like the Comrades and City to City.”

The 42-year-old veterinarian said she couldn’t believe how well she had done since she last took part in 2008.

“I had been training very hard for this race doing about 60-80km a week, but I never thought I would actually win my division.”

First established in 1903 by Spartan and Harriers athletics club, the race has since become South Africa’s oldest and Cape Town’s biggest annual sporting event.

Despite the heavy rainfall and strong south-easterly winds, about 22 000 walkers out of the 36 509 who registered strolled, power-walked and shuffled along 10 routes ranging from 5km to 80km in support of charities which included the Steenberg Foundation and the Breast Cancer Fundraisers and Nazareth House.

The oldest participant was 86-year-old Cecily Rootenberg and the youngest ranged from three months.

Event organiser Tania Carolus said: “Two years ago we had rainfall worse than this event. When I arrived at the 10km and 12km people were dancing in the rain with their children.

“We still had a crowd of people standing in front of the stage watching while it was pouring.”

Carolus said the weather would always be a challenge for big events.

By the time most of the walkers had crossed the finish line, race medical officer Basil Bonner said the medical centre had treated 118 people.

“We had no major injuries reported, but we are still waiting for feedback from two sent to hospital for diabetic and cardiac-related treatments.”

Last year, more R1 million was raised, and organisers expected the same success this year.

[email protected]