There’s safety in numbers, says veteran runner

Ashraf Orrie with members of the running group which was established following a spate of muggings and hijackings in the Plumstead area.

Fresh from the recent RMB Ultra-trail Cape Town, veteran runner Ashraf Orrie, from Plumstead, knows all about the mental and physical challenges associated with long-distance running.

From trail runs to road races, African X to Two Oceans and Cape Town marathons and other ultra runs, he’s seen and done it all. Name a race and he’s done it, locally and abroad.

“I’ve played soccer since the age of four, but about 12 years ago the soccer injuries on field became a bit too much (especially when playing up front as a striker ). Then I started running when a friend asked me to come run with him at a local running club and I’ve been hooked ever since,” said Orrie who has recently been selected to be an official pacesetter at Tata Mumbai Marathon in January as well London Marathon in February.

Although he does not consider himself a coach in the traditional sense, Orrie, popularly known as Mr O in the close knit running community, has assisted numerous runners with coaching or mentorship over the years, helping many along the way to cross that finish line.

The social and networking factor is also a big plus when running in the community.

I’ve since gone on to run many international races , as well as completing 13 Ironman events locally and abroad,” he said.

“I also serve on the Two Oceans Marathon Board’s race advisory committee an I’m also running the Columbia Trail Masters in Bangkok, in January,” he said.

Besides the normal challenges associated with hitting the road, often in the early hours of the morning, some runners may encounter dangers lurking in the shadows while being out on the road all by themselves, he said. Thankfully, there is safety in numbers, said Orrie, who recently started a running group.

Orrie, who works in the construction industry, says he was doing work for a client in Plumstead a few weeks ago when she mentioned that she was mugged in Honiton Road at 5.30am her husband was hijacked at gunpoint a few hundred metres away in Brampton Road.

“So with the muggings and hijackings in the Plumstead area, I felt there was a need for runners to stick together. I know of runners who were mugged and robbed on their runs in the area . That’s why I started the Plumstead neighbourhood run crew to create a safer group environment for runners and walkers to get their daily exercise done,” he said.

“Every Monday and Wednesday morning at 5.30am for now, we meet at Plumstead station parking lot. So our walk/run routes go through the neighbourhood and at the same time add extra eyes almost serving like a neighbourhood watch at the same time. Eventually, we will start having evening run groups as well, as the numbers grow,” he said.

“Walkers cover between 5km to 6km in one hour, runners about 8km to 10km during the same time period,” he said.

For more information or if you’d like to join, call Orrie on 084 589 7978.

  • In other running news, the 2022 edition of the RMB Ultra-trail Cape Town, South Africa’s premier festival of trail running, wrapped up a fortnight ago after three days of tough, exciting racing from some of the world’s best. Powerful performances from the South African women in the inaugural 100 miler saw Kerry-Ann Marshall (from Cape Town) and Naomi Brand (now living in New Zealand) cross the finish in second and third place among the women, achieving an incredible fifth and sixth place overall.

This new flagship race of the established RMB UTCT adds to the other race formats: a 23km, 35km, 55km, 100km. The 100km race is now firmly on the international ultra-trail calendar, with the 100 miler sure to attract an even bigger field next year.

The 166km with 7516m of vertical gain covers most of the 100km course, up and across Table Mountain and down to the Atlantic Seaboard, moving to the southern Peninsula mountains, the flowing trails from Silvermine to Kalk Bay, Simon’s Town and Kommetjie, then back to the front face of Table Mountain via the Constantia winelands and Cecilia and Newlands forests.

Fotis Zisimopoulos was untouchable from very early on in the race, finishing in under 21 hours (20:48:17). Aleksei Tolstenko (Neutral) and Elov Olsson (Sweden) were second and third respectively. The top six positions included the women’s podium, with American Hillary Allen taking fourth place overall in the women’s race, with Marshall in fifth as the second woman, and Brand finishing sixth overall as the third placed woman.

The common theme among the runners in both the 100 km and the 100 miler, was the challenge of the technical trails. Zisimopoulos says: “The paths were totally technical, you have to do big steps for the rocks, and the plants make it more difficult. But this is the mountains and why we do this, otherwise you should just run on the road. This was a race to remember.”

Runner safety was prioritised when a fire above Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay threatened to get out of control due to strong winds. 93 runners in the 100 miler and 71 runners in the 100km race were rerouted and then shuttled from Hout Bay to Constantia Glen. Avoiding any potential risk to the safety of runners, all were able to continue with the race.

In the PT55, the 55km race on Friday November 26, well-known Cape Town athlete Landie Greyling was first in the women’s race (06:23:31), a mere 5 seconds before Kim Schreiber from Germany. They were 13th and fourteenth overall and Sumé van Heerden (RSA) came third. The men’s podium was filled by international runners Robbie Simpson (Great Britain) 05:00:28, Jeshurun Small (USA) 05:13:25 and Mads Louring (Denmark) 05:22:19.

Ashraf Orrie looking to go another 100km during the recent RMB Ultra-trail Cape Town.