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12 Sep, 2018

Beloved Runs

891

With his customary “Hello, Hello,” followed by whistling, click sounds and shaking knees as he ‘calls the route’ for the day, Dean Wight begins the briefing for another Beloved Long Run. It’s just part of the popular weekly training runs taking place all over the KwaZulu-Natal province. – BY SEAN FALCONER

Our Beloved Chairman... that’s what the members of Queensburgh Harriers nicknamed Dean Wight when he served as Club Chair from 2006 to 2017, and when it came to choosing a name for the long training runs he has been organising each weekend since 2008, it just seemed right to go for Beloved Long Runs. “I would get up at 2am or 3am and go hide drinks and sweets in the bushes along the route, then go meet up for the run," recalls Dean. Now, 11 years later, those Queensburgh club runs have grown into multi-club runs that attract from 60 to 250 runners each Saturday morning, who turn out to run up to 32km together, with water tables every three to four kays serving water, cold drinks and snacks. Oh, and lots of crème soda… because Dean really loves his crème soda!

Dean (50) works as a rep for Asics in the KZN and Eastern Cape areas. He was introduced to running at the tender of age of 11, when he did a 5km fun run in La Lucia in December 1979. “I was initially reluctant to participate, but instantly fell head over heels in love with the sport. After that I continued running every fun run I could find until I was finally old enough to join Queensburgh Harriers in 1984. I ran my first marathon in 1986, and my first Comrades in 1988, and I’ve now done 27. My target is 40.”

Going the DIstance
In 2014, Dean and wife Des – “My biggest long run supporter and go-to girl,” says Dean – moved to Gillits, but as a life member he stayed with Queensburgh and carried on organising the training runs. He started charging R10 per run to cover the costs of the drinks and snacks, and says he had a contact list of 20 to 30 guys in a database that he would mail the weekend’s plans to, and they would then send-on to their friends. By the time Dean organised a big Hillcrest to Beachfront training run in January 2016, he was being asked to organise more runs, “So I decided to start organising runs all over the province, find volunteers for seconding tables, and create a webpage and Facebook page to promote the runs, while also upping the fee to R20 to cover the additional costs.”

When he was approached later in 2016 by several running clubs that wanted to be part of the runs, he grabbed the opportunity. “We were taking up too much parking at shopping centres and garages, so in 2017 we started partnering with various clubs and running from their clubhouses. The clubs could then make their showers, clubhouse and bar available, which could bring in some money while also offering runners a safer running environment. A large percentage of our runners are women, who are attracted by the increased safety of our group runs.”

The Beloved Long Runs are mostly on out-and-back routes, so runners can turn wherever they want to, and all take place on Saturday mornings. “I never clash with races on Sundays, because these runs rely on the clubs for support, and even on those weekends with really big races, I still still get a good turn-out.” Added to the weekly runs, Dean organises the ‘Comrades in Three Days’ on Easter Weekend, and helps organise the 56km Comrades Route Tester in early May, in conjunction with the long-standing Collegians and Hillcrest route tester runs. “We’ve brought 14 more clubs on board to help with the water tables, and it has really grown in popularity.”

Running for a Cause
One of the most commendable aspects of Dean’s runs is that once he has covered his costs for catering and logistics from the ‘entry fee,’ the rest goes to charity. He also puts out a donations box for any runners that may want to give more, and in 2016-2017 they raised R70,000 for various charities. However, much more was to follow this year. “The Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust was nominated as an official Comrades charity and early in 2018 they approached me to become a running ambassador for the Centre, but I said I wanted to do more by partnering the Beloved Long Runs to their charity.”

“I set an initial target of raising R10,000 for them, but then said, hold on, we’ve got over 3000 Facebook members and can aim higher, so I increased that to R100,000. An old school friend of mine then said that he would double the money if we reached that target, which we did in the first week of May. With R200,000 raised, I upped the target to R250,000, then R300,000, and eventually a few weeks after this year’s Comrades we finished on R327,000! It really is terrific to see how much the runners are willing to give back.”

To find the next Beloved Long Run, go to www.belovedlongruns.co.za or www.facebook.com/groups/belovedlongruns.

IMAGES: Jetline Action Photo & courtesy Dean Wight

Sean Falconer

Sean Falconer

Editor |

Sean is Editor of Modern Athlete Magazine and is based in Stellenbosch. He manages the Maties Women's Soccer Team, runs himself and does regular race commentary on weekends. The Busy Body.

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