As the tempo of entries for this Friday’s Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon starts to rise ahead of the Tuesday afternoon deadline, four athletes plan to set off at the start of 112km journey to Durban on foot, eager to take on the challenge to raise awareness for Faron-Mae Fisher, a four-year-old girl living with Glycogen Storage Disease type 0, and, in the words of run organiser Steve Black, “to give them something to do on a Friday.”
Steve Black founded the Non-Stop Dusi in 1985 when he and John Murray took advantage of full rivers after the 1985 Dusi to paddle the entire Dusi course in a day, completing it in 10 hours 36 minutes, and in the process they started the informal annual challenge to “do the Dusi in a day” when the river conditions were favourable.
Black, who is no stranger to extreme adventure challenges, last year ran from Cape Town to Durban in support of the Lettie Paddle cancer awareness campaign. The idea to run the Non-Stop Dusi course is not new – Black ran it with the Manu Loman athletes in 2013 – and he was unable to resist the temptation to do it again, this time roping in a few unsuspecting colleagues.
Black will be joined by his brother Allistair, who two weeks ago ran each stage of the Dusi Canoe Marathon with his kayak on his shoulder, and Andrew Mackay, who fills the space in the Black trio left by their brother Andrew Black who died several years ago.
A fourth athlete will join them on the start line, adding an international flavour to the runners, in Australian Jason Webb, who is in South Africa to run the Two Oceans and Comrades Marathons. He casually agreed to join the trio for the run on Friday without much knowledge of what he is in for.
“It might be a bit of a shock when we explain what we are going to do, but he is so focussed that he will be fine. He will either love me or hate me for getting him into this,” said Steve Black.
“He arrived with his wife at our place in Underberg after canceling a trip to West Africa because of the Ebola outbreak,” explained Black. “He came to stay for one night and has been with us for about six months.”
Black said that the group would stay as close as possible to the route followed by the paddlers, and would only deviate by following the road around Inanda Dam. They will swim across the river where needed and are planning to run the Burma Road portage in the closing stages of the ultra-run.
He added that they were targeting a sub-ten hour time for the run, but admitted that it will be a tough ask.
As team captain, Steve Black has assigned nicknames to the quartet, naming himself “The Mountain Hippie”, his brother Alistair is “Topless”, Mackay has been labelled “Fat Boy” and Australian Webb is simply “The Little Bloke.”
Alistair Black made a powerful statement by running this year’s Dusi Canoe Marathon in support four year old Amanzimtoti girl Faran Mae Fisher, and said he had grabbed the chance to continue the show of support for the youngster and her family.
“Faron-Mae has a really rare disease, and is the only known case in South Africa and one of around 1000 people worldwide with the disease,” explained Alistair Black. “There is some expertise in the USA that will be able to assist with her quality of life, and I would love to help with the fundraising that was started by the Toti Canoe Club to get her and her family to these doctors in the US.
“Their medical aid won’t help because the disease is basically unknown. That’s why I have taken this up, to try and raise funds for her and to show support for her family,” said Alistair Black.
Alistair Black got a hero’s welcome when he arrived at the Dusi finish at Blue Lagoon and after an interview on the finish line, was bowled over by a flood of cash donations pressed into his hand for the fundraiser.
He has appealed to anyone inspired to assist to contribute to the fundraiser by making a deposit into the fundraising bank account:
The Faron-Mae Fisher Trust
Branch code: 250655
Account number: 62382573783.
The Non-Stop Dusi takes place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban on Friday 6 March.