Bloem’s De Haasts tackle “Comrades Double”

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MORGAN PIEK

South Africans will once again be glued to their television screens this coming Sunday with the 90th running of the Comrades Marathon taking place between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal.

The iconic ultra-marathon boasts a 22 357 strong field this year with the competitors tackling the dreaded up run, which is considered to be more gruelling. However, for Bloemfontein adventure runners Michael de Haast and his wife Laura, as well as five other runners, the trip is more than double challenging.

The runners are set to complete what they call the "Comrades Double" which sees them run not just the Comrades, but also the 112km Love Lettie Fund Valley Run which will equate a total of 210km covered in two days.

The seven can almost be dubbed the ‘Magnificent Seven’ for their efforts, which will all be done in the name of charity and in honour of their good friend Caroline Schulze who is currently fighting the battle against breast cancer for the second time.

The runners will begin their tough journey in Pietermartizburg on Saturday morning and run along the Duzi River Valley all the way for 112km to Durban in the first leg of their trip.

Once in Durban, they will refuel and tackle the up run all the way back to the KwaZulu-Natal capital city in the official Comrades.

The late Nikki Haynes, who is affectionately known as "Lettie" and was a dear friend to the De Haasts, has died of the illness and has been one of the main inspirations to the adventurers.

De Haast says Lettie’s exceptional character, even when battling cancer, has been a real motivator to them.

"I have vitality and mobility – highlighting cancer by doing mad stuff is a blessing to me. Making a difference in people’s lives is one of my mantras. Doing it outdoors, surrounded by nature, is something we take for granted. So, for me doing stuff to change lives in an environment that I love, is a blessing" says Mike de Haast.

Laura de Haast welcomes their gruelling challenge which will last for just two days, but says it is a mere drop in the ocean of what a cancer sufferer undergoes. She feels, however, bringing it to the world’s attention can make a difference.

"Cancer patients suffer daily and the least we can do is highlight their plight and this dreaded disease by going outside the boundaries of normal to shine a spotlight on their world!" adds Laura de Haast.

Another crazy man and adventurer, Adrian Saffy, who along with Mike and Guy Allen ran the first "Double" in 2013, will tackle this year’s Expedition Africa, an international 500km adventure race taking place in Swaziland from 6 to 15 June, to raise funds and awareness through sponsors and donors for the Lettie Love Fund.