Sani Stagger continues to evolve with age

Photo - Gameplan Media

As the final entry for the 2016 Sani Stagger was submitted, race organisers and volunteers were well into their preparations for race-day as they embrace the unique challenge that this one-of-a-kind race presents ahead of the start of the ever-popular event on Saturday, 26 November.

The race has come a long way since it was first proposed 24 years ago and with a fully subscribed entry in 2016, a stalwart of the race and the community Dave Barnett believes that the new organising committee can take the race to new heights.

“We used to use the Sani Stagger as a charity run for the SAPS Widows and Orphans Fund back in 1994,” Barnett commented.

“It was a small race and it didn’t really gain a lot of popularity until it was taken over by the Sani Athletic Club in 2003 and it was Trish and Clive Crawly who were instrumental in getting the race to where it is now.

“They got everyone involved and made the event about the community in the same way that Spurg (Flemmington) and Matt (Goode) are doing now.”

The Southern Drakensberg plays host to a number of endurance events throughout the year with the prestigious KAP sani2c, the N3TC Drak Challenge canoe marathon as well as a handful of running events to have a road marathon almost completes an action-packed, all-year round adrenalin festival.

“The Sani Stagger is such a unique event in that not only is it a tough marathon and Comrades qualifier but you don’t often get to see the same sort of scenery you do from the top of Sani Pass.

“The community have become so involved in the race and we try to make the race better every year in how we support the runners and make their experience as enjoyable as possible.

“There have been runners coming from all over the world in the past to take part which I think is a testament to the popularity of the race.

“We are really hoping that the weather is going to play its part and give us beautiful views from the top of the hill!” added Barnett hopefully.

The thirteen half-marathon veteran has had many years to piece together the logistical puzzle that the Sani Stagger poses and he, along with the rest of the marshal team, has been able to put together a concise plan over the years.

“It is an incredibly long day for us and we start at around 02:30 in the morning and from the Sani Pass Hotel, the venue for the marathon start, set out to set up the watering tables along the route.

“What I have always done in the past is meet my son at the 21km mark at the top of Sani Pass and run the half marathon back down but unfortunately I injured myself and so haven’t been able to train which has ruled me out of this year’s race, unfortunately,” Barnett mentioned.

The Sani Stagger serves up a number of challenges to the runners and despite the rigors of running a marathon, runners have to negotiate their way up Sani Pass but more importantly, navigate the 21km of gravel road back down.

“The road surface means that you really have to watch every step you take on the way down and that can be difficult when you have already run a half marathon up the hill!

“Altitude is another issue as runners will be up at around 3000 metres above sea level at the top which means the air pressure is a challenge in itself.

“Despite these challenges the runners are always in high spirits and the spirit of the community members that assist on race day really does lift the runners in a unique way and I feel this camaraderie brings runners back every year,” Barnett explained. 

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