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Date: 19 November 2016
Distances: 21.1km (half marathon), 10km, 5km
Venue: Union Buildings, Government Avenue, Pretoria
*This is an AGN League race
The Tom Jenkins Challenge is a popular race that takes place in Pretoria South-Africa every year. It follows through the streets of Pretoria, underneath the beautiful blooming Jacaranda trees.
On the 10th May 1994, the world witnessed the birth of a proud new nation on the steps and lawns of Pretoria’s Union Buildings.
The first Tom Jenkins challenge was run on 3 December 1994 and was the first official road race to start and finish at the Union Buildings and incorporate the renowned climb along Tom Jenkins Drive to the top of Meintjieskop.
It is a run or a walk for most up Meintjieskop on Tom Jenkins Drive that offers a 180-degree view over the leafy suburbs of Rietondale, Riviera, Villieria, just behind the Union Buildings.
The 800m hill was constructed by the Italian POW during World War 2. In those day’s road was called Cement Road, but then better known as Ton Jenkins Drive, it was named after a former mayor of Pretoria. He was born in 1883 and came to Pretoria when he was 6 years old and spent 57 years in the city. He retired from the department of Inland Revenue in 1938; represented Arcadia, Riviera and Rietondale.
Tom Jenkins lived on the north side of Meintjeskop and when he sold his property it was a clause in the contract that the small foot path would have to be made into a proper road. I got the information in the archives of the University of Pretoria’s website. The research was compiled by Rosa Swanepoel and is all in Afrikaas. It’s quite interesting, CLICK HERE to go to the site – there is a PDF Document available.
Below are some maps I found in her research showing what the area looked like in those days.
It is a race that welcomes all shapes and sizes. It is the most diverse race I have been a part of, but that it to be expected with the wonderful diversity in our country with Gauteng and Pretoria being at the heart of it.
Everybody dresses up and prises are given for the largest, fastest and jolliest clubs. This is what makes this a race a must to show pride in your club and have fun. Runners wear strange outfits, and some even run with sound systems in trolleys (shopping carts), pumping out loud music whilst you run.
Clubs sing songs as they run through the streets of Pretoria encouraging and uplifting each other. I really wish I took more pictures – I will have to make a point of it next year.
I arrived nice and early for registration. I parked right at the top at the union Buildings. It was really beautiful to look over our amazing City. I tripled down all those steps as registration took place at the bottom of the site, on the grass where we were to finish. I met a Lady and we chatted about the race. She told me all these interesting things about her previous experiences with this event. We entered the crowd to register. No line, no order, haha just chaos and excitement, every man for himself.
Lol….there was so many people, all talking at once, I got to the front – I just looked at the administrator and yelled “10KM!!” – In my hand he placed two papers with numbers on and out of my other he took the cash, push-push-shove-shove I tried to move out the way. It was a little intense to say the least…So if you don’t like crowds rather do the pre-race entry option.
My eyes met again with the Lady I had a discussion with earlier, we walked towards each other smiling like we had triumphed the push-push-shove-shove. She helped me to attach my numbers with little safety pins, and then we went our separate ways again. It was a very chilli and cloudy day, I feared that is was going to rain. But I think the weather was a cool blessing to say the least.
I was to meet up with old friends for the race, I found them just before registration. I would meet up with them later again. I needed to put things in my car before the race.
Then I found myself thinking about my previous post. The – “Why do I have to Poop when I run?” – post. Looking at the bathrooms, it’s like clockwork – Looking at the line outside those toilets. I made peace with knowing that ‘this’ was not going to happen, I would have to just deal.
I met up with my Old friends and the race started. It was a very slow start. It appeared that they let people go in groups, as to prevent a stampede of people leaving at once. Slowly we made our way to the front and then it cleared, we could run, well, kinda. There were still allot of people so you would run –dodge as you went along.
At 3km we had a coke and water break. At that point my knees were aching from running too slow, like my mucels were getting cold. I greeted my Friends and braked away from the crowds, running faster and actually having so much fun, pushing forward.
I had never done this race before, and before we started every one was going on about this hill, and how bad it was. I didn’t mind them too much. But when I turned into Soutpansberg way at about 6km it was like a light went on. Running through the archives of my mind, through my memories of the streets of Pretoria, and it hit me – “o shit…its THAT hill…..”
I suddenly remembered that the big hill, the one my Mom always freaked out about when my father would drive down it too fast, that was Tom Jenkins… eish..
As we turned into the street I didn’t want to stop, I had worked so hard to get ahead of everybody to get to a clear point where I can have a rhythm of running that I didn’t want to stop and have to break away from the crowd again. Haha, like 300m in I stopped, a little tired with my calves burning. I rested and took a few pictures.
I then continued up the hill – I pushed harder, I wanted to run most of the hill. I dodged through the crowd like I was jumping from rock to rock breaking though saying very politely – “Oops, sorry, sorry, excuse me, sorry”.
I broke through and was able to run forward – from here on it was almost down hill all the way – not to good for the knees but I managed. It was like the mountain had been blocking the breeze and after conquering Tim Jenkins drive the wind gushed onto you as you started to descend. It was amazing, the humidity just disappeared. Suddenly I had new energy.
Running down and past our union buildings again I saw all the different faces, people running together, and for a moment I wished that every person could see our city and its people through my eyes.
To see the beauty the love and the companionship within all our differences, we were all here to run, and that was all that mattered. Nothing our President had done, not the colour of our skin or our different nationalities or the different languages we spoke mattered, just the run through our beautiful city.
I spoke to so many people, actually laughed and giggled at every encounter, I felt proud in seeing people unite despite all the politics going on in our country. I love my country and all its diversity. It’s a treasure we must not take for granted.
I wish that everyone could see and feel that feeling of love and warmth for each other every day here in South-Africa, and not just on days like these. We all have more in common than we think, but I trust that every year the Tom Jenkins Challenge will remind us of this.
Below is the route provided to me by the organizers of the event,