Words: Media ZCMC ǀ Photos: Zoon Cronje
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Loyal fans of Binneland, the daily soapie on kykNET, will know Stefan Ludik as Doctor Gustav Kemp, the doctor who is always looking for something adventurous to do. What they probably do not know is that Ludik is not merely an actor. In real life he is an enthusiastic adventurer who can't resist a good challenge. So when Pieter Swart, organiser of the Warrior series (obstacle racing), asked him to become an Ambassador for the series, he did not hesitate for a moment. Ludik even starred in the promotional video for the Warrior series. The video begins with Ludik in a locker room, dressed in a suit and tie, and looking disgruntled and fed up with life. Then you hear Ludik say, “Swiping access cards, leather swivel chairs, my boss from hell. It is debit orders, deadlines and missing deadlines. It is the mundane commuting in traffic, charging a dead phone … again. There must be more to life than this.” The next moment you see Ludik dressed in shorts and a pair of old ‘takkies’. Then the fun starts. Ludik is shown conquering many obstacles. He jumps over a burning fire, crawls underneath barbed wire and through mud, runs while carrying a big log, jumps and grabs onto an obstacle wall and then pulls himself to the top. The video ends with Ludik covered in mud, his arms triumphantly in the air and a broad smile on his face.
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But what is the Warrior obstacle race really all about? “To get people off their couches, make them gather some friends, give them great obstacles to conquer and let them celebrate, fiesta style! Yes, give them the coolest, craziest and most adventurous day of their lives,” said Pieter Swart, organiser of the Warrior obstacle race. “Every event in the series caters for all ages, as well as all levels of fitness and skill. There are races that take care of hardcore, adrenaline junkies who simply cannot resist a tough physical challenge, as well as races designed to challenge and entertain the weekend warrior. It is also for those who would like to do their first obstacle race and get first-hand experience of what they watch their heroes do on television. “The Warrior Race promises to be an absolutely exhilarating experience, no matter what your level of experience or fitness is. There will even be a category for people who come here with their families and plan to race with their kids, which is tailor-made to test their endurance, fitness and mental strength.
“Yes, you will get wet and dirty, and you will laugh and cry, but all in all, you will have a blast. Ultimately it is not only about the race, it is also about sharing and celebrating your quests and victories with friends and family,” said Swart. According to Swart, athletes will be challenged by world-class obstacles that will involve jumping over burning fires, crawling through mud under a wire fence, battling up slippery slopes and running or swimming across water obstacles. There might even be a few variations of rope obstacles that need to be conquered, as well as some other messy surprises. Added Swart, “Another aspect that makes the Warrior Race so exciting is that everybody will be able to afford to participate. To be a competitive mountain biker can be quite an expensive hobby, but for obstacle racing, all you need is a pair of old takkies, old shorts, preferably an old T-shirt and, most importantly, a sense of humour and a love for adventure and fun, and you are off.”
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The first event of the Warrior series took place from 9-10 February at Stoke City, in Midrand, and more than 4,000 athletes participated. A definite highlight was Sunday’s ‘Soap War’. The actors in South Africa’s favourite Afrikaans soapies, namely Villa Rosa, 7de Laan and Binneland, showed that they truly understand what it means to have guts and to enjoy themselves. Without the assistance of stunt men or camera tricks, they struggled on their own, at times having to crawl through obstacles that consisted mainly of mud. Their climbing and balancing skills were also put to the test. The fun and games eventually turned into a truly down and dirty business, and some of the actors began to look as if they were playing the role of war victims in some movie. But they were having fun and no one was complaining. More importantly, the main winners of the day were the kids from the Abraham Kriel Kinderhuis.
The actors of the three different soapies set up a jackpot, stipulating that the team who was first in getting four participants through to the finish, could decide which charity should receive the money. Due mainly to the efforts of Dawid Louw, Jaco Vermeulen and Andries van der Merwe, who managed to stay and work together as team throughout all the obstacles, the ‘manne’ from Villa Rosa were the victors. The 7de Laan and Binneland actors kept the Three Musketeers' famous slogan of ‘One for all and all for one’ in mind. The obstacle responsible for most of the drama was the one where participants had to do a five-metre jump into a small waterhole. For many this was a true test of courage and some even referred to it as ‘a leap of faith’. For the tiny Mari Molefe van Heerden (Villa Rosa), it was indeed a leap of faith and took some serious encouragement from her fellow actors to persuade her to do the jump. She eventually jumped while holding on to a colleague's hand. However, it proved to be too much for her and the moment she came out of the water, she started to hyper-ventilate due to shock. “It was definitely one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do,” Van Heerden gasped afterwards. Even though Elma Postma (Binneland) tried very hard to do the jump, she couldn't do it and ended up crying as she climbed down again. “I am just so scared of heights,” she confessed.
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Neels Clasen (Binneland) thoroughly enjoyed himself. “Competing in a Warrior obstacle race is better than going to the gym and running on a treadmill for an hour. What I enjoyed about the Warrior Race was the sense of achievement I experienced after every obstacle. In the end, after I had finished, I felt like a millionaire. I certainly want to compete in some of the other Warrior events. It is much better than just watching movies on a Sunday.”
When Nadia Valvekens (Binneland) was asked if she minded getting so dirty, she answered that she had a blast. “I think it is sometimes necessary to chuck out all the rules and simply enjoy oneself,” she said. Francois van Rensburg (7de Laan) said what he enjoyed most about the Warrior Race was the camaraderie. “I realised within the first 100 metres that in a Warrior race, it is not just about winning. To be able to finish, you need to work as a team. It was amazing to see how everybody was prepared to help one another. If somebody fell, there was immediately some athlete available who helped him back on his feet again. It was a very special event.” The Mud Monster, which was 15-metres wide and 80-metres long, was another challenging obstacle. It consisted of six ditches, each approximately 2-metres deep. To start the Mud Monster, you had to go into a ditch and then crawl your way to the top. It was not an easy task because the ground that was excavated to make the ditch was stacked on the opposite embankment of each ditch. The rain that fell the day before had made everything even more slippery and wet.
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It is a pity that the organisers did not time the different items properly. Three days after the event the official results were still not available. On Saturday, Thabang Madiba was the first competitor to finish, with Bennie Roux second, Carla van Huysteen third and Mark Price fourth.
Although the athletes were not sure if they all competed over the same distance, as some of them went off in a wrong direction on more than one occasion and this led to much confusion, Roux was prepared to accept that Madiba was the winner. Even though Madiba was a pre-race favourite, he was a worthy champion because he was forced out of his comfort zone during the race. It happened at the obstacle where he had to jump from a height of five metres into a waterhole. Madiba admits that he was very scared because he can't swim, but seeing that he had a race to win, not to jump was never an option for him. Eventually he just made sure that there was somebody available to help him out of the water after he jumped. It became evident during the two days of the competition that to really enjoy yourself, it was important that you did not compete in just any old T-shirt and shorts. Those who competed as teams were quite creative with the outfits they wore. Some men competed in suits and ties and there was a team who competed in orange overalls with Madiba’s prison number (46664) printed on it. Some of the women wore fishnet stockings, while others competed in ballet outfits. Probably to scare off the other participants, one of the teams had little devil’s horns attached to their heads. Michelle Meyer, from Centurion, was one of the athletes who competed in a prison overall. “Our team’s motto was ‘Run as if you had stolen something’, she said. Michelle admitted that the overalls became quite heavy when they got wet and muddy, but at least they kept us cool.
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Willie Marais from Hennopspark said that competing in an obstacle race was more challenging than a triathlon. “While your endurance is being tested, you also have to use your brains to plan how to get over, under or past the obstacles. It was a good change from triathlon.”
Dean Sprasson from Johannesburg agrees that it was something different. “It is a nice change from just doing normal, clean road running.” One thing is certain. Obstacle racing is sure to become big in South Africa. Just about everybody who competed at Stoke City said they will compete in some of the other Warrior events as well. The general consensus was that there is nothing better than being challenged to overcome some of your personal fears, even if you have to get muddy and wet in the process. •
• Become a Warrior (Issue 22, p. 16)
The Warrior Race offers three courses to choose from: Warrior Brats Race – 1 km, 8 obstacles. This race is tailored for the kids. Warrior Rookie Race – 6 km to 8 km, 15 obstacles. This race is meant for anyone and everyone. Warrior Black-ops Race – 18 km to 20 km, 30 obstacles. This race is for the serious athlete. Full event details are available on the official event website at www.warrior.co.za and for regular updates and juicy news, you can also follow the Warrior Race Facebook page (the Warrior Race). If you like things a bit more visual, then go check out the Warrior video on Youtube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR4Wb-9GBZ4
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