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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

70-year-old Saunders targets age group half marathon World Record at NMB 1 City Marathon

Known for it's fast courses, Nelson Mandela Bay will host it's final major road running event of the year this weekend where athletes have the opportunity to run fast times. The Nelson Mandela Bay 1 City Marathon and 21km at the Fairview racecourse in Greenbushes on Saturday, 2 December where some of the countries top marathon athletes including the likes of Thabang Mosiako, Melikhaya Frans and Simon Sibeko will be in action in the 42,2km. But there is also a half marathon race where all eyes will be on 70-year-old Margie Saunders could set a new 21,1km half marathon record for women aged 70-75.

“I have two goals, I would love to break the SA 21km record (1:46) and it would be really nice to go under the world record which is 1:37:38, but I have only just upped my mileage so I will have to see how I feel and what the weather looks like and see how I do in this race,” said the Nedbank Running Club top runner who has held a few age group world bests for the 15km and 30km.

Saunders has been in red hot form since turning 70 in September. She gave an outstanding performance at the NMB Gelvandale 10km race in October where she finished first in her 70-79 age category, in a time of 46:07, smashing both the EP and SA 10km age group records. Photo Credit: Tania Zwiegelaar Photography.

Having turned 70 in September, Saunders has become local celebrity in the Eastern Province Athletics (EPA) running community for her incredible longevity. Margie started running in her mid-30’s and ran all her best times in her mid-40’s, including a personal best standard marathon time of 2:55 as well as two silver medals at the Comrades Marathon when she crossed the finish line in 7:24 and 7:25.

But things are a bit different this year for the woman who has been running for 35 years now. She has been struggling with her health for the past twelve months. First she had to recover from an abdominal operation that she underwent last year and then she suffered a freak accident in January when she broke her ankle and foot. But having survived six month sof chemotherapy after being diagnosed with breast cancer back in the year 2000, Saunders knows all about using running to overcome adversity. “Running has and always will be my best stress reliever," she laughed.

Saunders in action during the Kariega Human Race during March 2023. Photo Credit: Supplied.

It means that if the notrious PE wind stays away then another world best could be on the cards for this evergreen granny. Ikhamva Athletics Club coach and race director, Mike Mbambani believes that if it's a fast time she is going for, then Saunders has picked the perfect course on which to do it. "Athletes will be competing on a very fast World Athletics-certified route which starts and finishes at Fairview racecourse in Greenbushes. We are expecting new personal best times and good seedings," said an excited Mbambani.

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