Niklas Sjöblom, as winner in his country last year, was given the choice to run anywhere he likes, and opted to come to South Africa. Photo: Dean Treml/Wings For Life World Run

JOHANNESBURG – Winter might be here already, but out in Pretoria it is still warm, pretty warm.

It would appear, though, that the organisers of the Wings for Life World Run forgot to make Niklas Sjöblom aware of this fact.

Why else would the Swede be so confident of running longer than he did in his own country last year?

Sjöblom is in South Africa to race on Sunday in a unique event, for which the sole purpose is to raise funds for research into establishing a cure for spinal cord injuries.

The race is run at the same time in about 35 countries the world over, and the South African race takes place at 1pm in Irene, Pretoria.

And unlike in other races, competitors are not trying to be the first to complete a particular distance, but rather strive to go as far as possible before being caught by the chasing car that gets moving 30 minutes after the start.

Sjöblom, as winner in his country last year, was given the choice to run anywhere he likes, and opted to come here.

He has spoken boldly of his plan to not only be the last man standing, but to do so by running further than the 70.10km he ran last year.

Last year’s winner Admire Muzopambwa ran 63.24km, and it will take some doing for Sjöblom to better that.

When the race starts at 1pm, the temperature will probably be at about 24 degrees Celsius.

That is super hot even for locals, with not many daring to do afternoon runs despite the fact they are finalising their preparations for next month’s Comrades Marathon.

I live in Centurion and often go for late morning runs, and by 11am, it is already so hot that I dare not leave the house without a bottle of some hydration of sorts.

The idea of a Scandanavian native flying to more than 70km in the Pretoria heat just does not seem possible, and while I have no doubts about Sjöblom’s abilities, I just do not think he will be able to cope with the heat to go fast enough to be able to achieve his objective.

The fact that the local record of 68.86km was set out in Cape Town by the talented Eric Ngubane, who has a Comrades Marathon gold and is a supreme trail runner, tells the story of just how tough it will be for Sjöblom to clock upwards of 71km today.

I did the race last year, and as exciting as it is, running in the afternoon Pretoria heat is a tester.

But when you are running for those who cannot do so, you find a way to soldier on through the heat, hopeful that your contribution will go some way towards seeing someone saved from being wheelchair bound forever.

And for the likes of me, the race will also serve as a good workout as we wind down our preparations for that good old torturously crazy run from Durban up to Pietermaritzburg.

For Sjöblom, it will be an introduction to a heat run he probably never has experienced before.

And should he achieve his target, I will be among the first to salute him.


Sunday Independent

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