In 1974 a group of swimmers from Natal, who couldn’t afford the petrol to drive down to East London for the Buffalo Mile, organised their own event at the Midmar Dam near Howick, Natal. Ever since then swimmers have been challenging themselves and each other to swim the Midmar Mile. The ladies, never to be left too far behind, demanded their own race the next year and the annual Event has grown today to be the largest open water swim in the World! The Midmar Dam, which pauses the Umgeni River on it’s inexorable course to the Indian Ocean, was commissioned in 1965 and it’s capacity is vital to the City of Durban. This year, with the event being held on Valentine’s Day the theme would be all about Love, in all it’s various forms!
1 Keri-Anne Payne 7 time woman’s champ didn’t enter this year, giving the locals a chance to win!
Our trip started badly, leaving Johannesburg on Friday afternoon at 15:45 and fighting our way the 50 odd kms through to Alberton in two hours meaning our ETA would be at ten that night and not at eight as planned. A truck ridden freeway didn’t help our journey much, even though the Renault Koleos’ speedo-cruise tried it’s best to ease our burden!
2 We fight over who’s driving the Koleos, with it’s comfortable but sit up and beg seats and stacks of cruising power!
Our kuier time was also shortened when the manager of our accommodation took some 10 minutes to respond to his intercom, our hooting and headlamp flashing! The two sets of parents had much to talk about that evening and finally retired at 2:45am on Sat morning..!
6am and coffee, organise food and drinks for the day, the kids raced off first to register, get their ankle chips and relevant coloured swimming caps issued according to their seeding times over a compulsory one kilometre trial race, held elsewhere and earlier, in order to qualify for the aQuellé Midmar!
Now at this stage I have to disappoint you all by informing you: “No! We weren’t swimming the Mile!” With just 3 hours sleep under our belts we might manage a dip in the Jacuzzi! Only the kids were swimming with one of the group planning to do all eight Events, but approaching the Start line for Event One, many iron women and men were spotted, with every kind of disability, lined up in their respective cap coloured corrals, ready to swarm to the water and swim the 1.6 kms from Blackhurst Peninsula to the finish line at the Midmar Resort.
St Vincent School for The Deaf had unloaded a bus load of their pupils to bravely, and silently, swim their respective Miles. Many backs, shoulders and thighs were adorned with water resistant ink messages of Love! In loving memory of Greg, on a yellow capped swimmer; on the back of many of the Gold caps was simply, For Mr King. The back of one of the Green caps also had two words, For Mum, and on the thigh of one lady swimmer, Juicy Succulent Rump!
3 This swimmer was doing it in Loving memory of Greg!
The first wave of brave swimmers with their many disabilities, entered the water some reversing in through the mud on their bottoms and hands, until their powerful, upper bodies could propel their immobile legs to the start line! As the start siren hooted, one of the Gold Caps kicked off from the back of the field, his one remaining arm slowly propelling him through the water! He was to do four Miles today, and four tomorrow on Valentine’s Day!
4 Some of the Gold Caps, a Lime Green Cap, and the Pink Caps who were swimming in aid of Breast Cancer research! Note also the optional marker buoys which could double as a rest aid if needed!
The Lime green caps who swim sixteen Miles over the two day event, eight times there, and back on the outside of the course, are certainly heroes who deserve Gold Medals, let alone a mention!
Sarel, our skoonseun, or son-in-law did the Mile in the first event of the day, and we then had to rush back to fetch him so that he could swim with Natalie in Event Three. All went off according to plan as the back-up team of non-swimmers shuttled the kids back from the finish line at the Midmar Resort, oiled up their charges, braaied the breakfast meat and bananas and snapped many photographs!
5 Natalie and Sarel, next to the Yellow cap corral, ready to don their caps and swim a mile or two!
Hestelle, obviously swimming for the love of it, donned her Gold cap and swam in all eight events, while her boyfriend Donovan made a late entry and back-stroked his Mile event, ending with a pronounced back-stroker’s tan around the periphery of his cap and goggles!
6 This is not Donovan but will give you a good idea of just how a back-stroker’s tan looks!
Events over for Saturday we all descended on our shared house accommodation, unwound in the afternoon heat, some of us a little jaded from the late night kuier, the kids rebooting their bodies after their Mile swims. Linda’s brother Frans and his wife Telani arrived and soon after Rowan, (our nephew) and Liska, (the Love of Rowan’s life), also rocked up to squeeze into our house! Rowan and Liska were swimming together in Event six, and for reasons that would become obvious at the end of that event, Sarel was swimming with them!
We braaied that night under an enormous Oak tree that was the perfect conversation pit, with a span of some thirty metres, keeping the rain at bay until Mama chased us to the stoep when the donderweer started! Although I had a finger in the fire, Hansie and Sarel braaied the meat to perfection! Hestelle received more than one compliment for her potato salad!
The next morning things were a little chaotic as there were many plans afoot besides the adrenalin rush of swimming more Miles! Between booking out of our accommodation, emptying the fridges and packing the cars, we had to ensure all the lunch ingredients were within easy reach and the Champagne and beers were ice cold.
Panic set in when Sarel asked me to drop him at the Dam and the aQuellé Event HQ where many stalls were selling all manner of swimming, outdoor and Midmar paraphernalia! He needed new goggles as his set were perished and had started to leak and let the dam water in and irritate his eyes! In the meantime the rest of the gang had booked out of our house, leaving a somewhat irate Linda with our suitcase and the food and drinks for the day etc! Danny Boy got the call and raced back to fetch Mama!
7 A must to keep the dam water out of the swimmer’s eyes!
Event Six and every one of our swimmers, except Natalie, were swimming! We saw them off, had a revitalizing and Happy Valentine drink and snacks, then rushed off the finish line so that we could witness Rowan and Liska exiting the water. Natalie who was swimming Event Seven, had her camera ready and was going to video the finish! Sitting in the small grandstand with the towels at the ready, Frans had a moment of panic when he momentarily lost the ring! Telani was not impressed!
Sarel had left Rowan and Liska with about a hundred metres to go, and had swum ahead to warn us of their impending arrival and to collect the ring from Frans then pass it on to Rowan! As deviously planned for many weeks, Rowan then swam ahead of Liska and as she walked over the finish line, there was Rowan on his knees, asking for her hand in marriage! The presenter jumped at the unique Valentine Day proposal and the cameras were rushed to the spot, asking Rowan and Liska to redo the proposal a couple of times!
8 Natalie taking the video of the big moment! Directly after this we had to put foot to get back to the start line for her race!
What could be more exciting than a live televised marriage proposal? Well Natalie had finished her filming of the drama over the finish line and mentioned to me that she had to race back to the start at Blackhurst Peninsula, and “We’d better leave now Dad!” Rowan and Liska’s race had been leisurely and there were only a few stragglers left in the water, and worse still we could hear the Tannoy a mile away calling the entrants for the next event.
As fast as my now more mobile legs could carry me I raced on up the steep banks of the Dam to fetch the car, collected Natalie where I’d told her rest and wait, and then we attempted to put foot and race along the access road! We came across a line of traffic though that was moving at a snail’s pace and having heard three waves of swimmers hooted off the start line, Natalie said ”I am not going to make it Dad!” That was all Dad needed to switch on the Hazards, headlights and start hooting like a mad man and pull out and race down past the line of cars only to be baulked by an oncoming car, which forced us to pull in behind the reason for the hold up! A police vehicle had been cruising around to slow the traffic down and thank goodness the driver was a quick thinker! Immediately he switched on his siren and flashing blue lights, put his foot on the petrol, and escorted us around to the start line!
9 With flashing lights and siren screaming our quick thinking cop escorted us to the start line!
As we stopped, Natalie who had already donned her green cap and goggles, opened the door to the Tannoy calling out “One minute to go!” That was the call for the white caps and she raced down through the various corrals to the start, with spectators calling out to her “Jy’s laat meisiekind!” (You’re late girl!”) As Natalie reached the water’s edge the siren hooted for the last wave of swimmers to go, full of adrenalin she dived in and started picking off white caps. There hadn’t been time to strap on the optional marker buoy as instructed by Mama! There would be hell to pay later on, but with a Mile time of 49:21 minutes, it would be worth it! She even caught up with many of the green caps! You go girl!
10 Natalie minutes before Saturday’s Mile. Note the marker buoy she discarded for Sunday’s Mile!
Once we had fetched Natalie and were walking back to the cars, newly engaged Liska noticed an orange car cruising along the access road. Rowan has an ostentatious deep orange coloured Ford Focus and Liska’s Dad Henk, a Nissan 350Z painted metallic orange with matching painted brake calipers through the mag wheels. Both cars stick out like sore thumbs! Rowan’s car was parked, it could only be her Dad who had driven through from Durban to celebrate Liska’s engagement! It had turned out be a hectic Valentine’s Day for all of us!
11 Liska’s Dad, Henk cruised up from Durbs to celebrate and take the 350Z for a spin!
A South African girl, Michelle Weber, won this year’s Ladies Midmar in a time of 19:10mins just two seconds ahead of Holly Hibbott! The men’s event was another nail biter with Chad Po racing through in a time of 17:00mins three seconds in front of Matthew Meyer! Our hero Silver Medalist from the 2000 Olympics, in the Deaf category was Terence Parkin with a time of 21:49mins.
12 Olympic hero Terence Parkin
Love is in the Air from the Seventies and John Paul Young
St Vincent School For The Deaf congratulations and well done to all of you swimmers! Way to go!:
Down Durban way The Fulton School for The Deaf we didn’t see your bus but I’m sure the kids were swimming:
Abraham Kriel Childcare group, caring while we work:
The Avril Elizabeth Home for the Mentally Handicapped was opened in 1970, and for the amazing work they do for the less fortunate they deserve great accolades: