WITH the world marathon season in full swing, I was reminded this week of the words of that lovely old song “… and if you should survive to a 105, think of all you’ll derive out of being alive – and here is the best part you have a head start if you are among the very young at heart”.
And it brought to mind that wonderful East London long distance warrior and role-model to countless youngsters, Zeb Luhabe, who turned 90 this year.
And you know what? The man is STILL running! How many people do you know who can do that at his age?
Among his more memorable moments was the Comrades of 2003. At the age of 76 he was the last man to finish. Television viewers that year were treated to the dramatic and heart-rending scene of this lion-hearted Border runner staggering towards the finish line, nose bloodied by an en route accident with the race official already holding aloft the cut-off gun and counting down the few final seconds. Zeb fell across the line with literally one second to spare to cheering applause from the huge crowd gathered at Kingsmead finish line in Durban and no doubt a tear of pride and relief from his many Border supporters. It was the 11th time he had attempted the marathon and the first time he had beaten the gun.
For this effort he was presented with a trophy by the Comrades Marathon Association of which he is particularly proud. The inscription reads: “Harmony Spirit of Comrades Award presented with the admiration of the organisers for his courage and determination as the last runner to finish”.
I visited this grand old man of the road in his modest bed-sitter in the Berea Gardens retirement complex this week. He told me he had lost count of the ultra-marathons, marathons, half marathons, 10km runs he has completed and the permanent numbers he had won over the years saying simply: “It gets me out into God’s fresh air and keeps me fit.”
Above all, he wants to set an example for the youth; to keep them off the streets by showing them how an active lifestyle can keep them healthy well into old age. Zeb, a former police sergeant who was given the honour of lighting the flame at the South African Games in East London a few years ago, has lost a vital sponsorship and his pension does not allow him the badly needed running gear and funds to get him to various events.
I do hope Border’s road running fraternity will see to it that this long-standing and distinguished member of their brotherhood is not left wanting.