Voox Sonandzi (front left) joined Cape Town Marathon ambassadors Elana Meyer (right) and Francois Pienaar (back right) on Monday's run. Photo: Stephen Granger

Sanlam Cape Town Marathon ambassadors Francois Pienaar and Elana Meyer turned out for a Captain’s Challenge training run in the False Bay Nature Reserve on Monday.

They led a group of committed runners and supporters around a scenic 10km route along the shores of Zeekoevlei and around the Strandfontein Birding Area.

Pienaar instituted the Captain’s Challenge two months ago, when he signed up to run the September marathon.

And he and Meyer have appealed to other captains of sport and industry to join him in completing Africa’s first IAAF Gold Label status marathon on Sunday, September 17.

Pienaar admitted to being somewhat under-trained, and that he was battling with a knee injury.

“I only managed one 15km run over the weekend, but I’ve done about 50km this week,” Pienaar admitted.

“I’m pleased that we could get a training run this morning at Zeekoevlei. We have previously got to know it from my son’s rowing training, but this is the first time I have really seen the wider nature reserve.”

Leading Cape Town athlete and Endurocad leader Nolene Conrad and well known master runner Maxwell Godloza were among those who joined Meyer and Pienaar in braving the cold north-wester to get into shape.

Part of the reason for holding the training run in the False Bay Nature Reserve – which has now been internationally recognised as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area and designated a “Ramsar Wetland” – was to highlight the work of the Cape Town Marathon’s Run4Change programme and the environmental education and skills development programmes at the reserve.

Run4Change promotes health and well-being, the environment, support for charities and the development of athletes from disadvantaged areas.

“We regard False Bay Nature Reserve as one of our most important conservation areas in Cape Town,” said Brett Herron, the mayco member for environment at the City of Cape Town.

“This is partly due to the ecological importance of the site, but equally important are the learnership and skills development programmes, which are equipping young people from surrounding areas such as Lotus River and Lavender Hill for nature-based employment opportunities.

“Together with our partners, Cape Town Environmental Education Trust, Bird Life South Africa and Cape Bird Club, we welcome the opportunity to link with the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon in this manner and hope that it will further promote these important programmes.”​

The Strandfontein (Cape Flats) Sewage Works has become known as a globally important bird area, attracting increasing numbers of tourists from all over the world and creating nature-based employment opportunities.

“We are privileged to have one of the world’s bird treasure chests on our doorstep,” regional manager of BirdLife South Africa Dale Wright pointed out as the runners jogged past the bird information centre.

“Nutrition is important to marathon runners and also with migratory birds. Some of these little guys put on 40 percent of their body mass before starting a 20 000km journey from the northern hemisphere. That’s perhaps not a good formula for racing the Cape Town Marathon, but it works for the birds!”

Pienaar was delighted to meet former gang member Grant Revell, who turned his back on crime to follow a career in nature conservation.

“It’s amazing to hear these stories,” said Pienaar. “We’ve heard how these programmes are changing lives, and we would love to find a way to support these initiatives.”

IOL Sport