'The goal is to become one of the top races in the country' - All systems go for LetsGo Potch
Known for being one of country's centres of track and field excellence, Potchefstroom started to become known as a growing road running force. During the Golden Age of South African distance running during the 1980's and early 1990's many of the nation's top runners were lived, trained and raced in the mines just a stone's throw away in Klerkdorp to the west and Carltonville and Randfontein to the east. It meant that Potch which was sandwiched in between, played home to a number of memorable battles. But since then the town 120km west of Johannesburg has become better known for being the home of a world class track and field training destination at the University of the North West, which has seen a decline in the number and quality of road running events.
But that is all changing now with the introduction of new road running events which are attracting many of Gauteng and the North West Province's top runners. The N12 Ultra Marathon which is a 50km race between Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp did that in Autumn and in late spring the LetsGo Potch Road Race will do the same. Taking place on Saturday 28 October the event features 5km, 10km, 21km and 42km races.
"LetsGo Potch is in its third year," explained race organiser Ruben Gouws. "In the beginning sat down and said that we want to create a road running event that will be a feature of the South African athletics community. The whole goal is to become one of the top races in the country, while creating a community race for Potchefstroom to make Potchefstroom flourish as a town. So we invite people from across the country to come and experience Potch in a different way."
The idea is working because after only two editions of the race, LetsGo Potch is targeting a field of about 1200 participants in 2023. Gouws believes that the growth they have seen after starting the race during the Covid-19 lockdown can be ascribed to relaxed mood created on race day which allows runners of all abilities to enjoy a day outdoors in one of the North West Province's sporting mecca.
"We have really tried to make it so that the athletes experience Potch in a different way, which means that we have tried to include as many landmarks as possible. So the athletes will run past the Potch Dam, run through different suburbs in Potchefstroom and for the half marathon and the marathon there will be about 2km where they will run inside the military base. So that's something unique and different. It's all about creating a vibe and an atmosphere for what will be a community race for Potchefstroom," he said.
And if the ambition is to become one of the top road races in the country then the legions of mass participants and Comrades qualifiers must be led home by an army of top runners. With the likes of Elroy Gelant call the town in the Tlokwe Municipality home, that shouldn't be difficult. Ruben says they have invited a number of their track and road running stars to make sure that the titles stay at home. "There's a few big athletes who have agreed to come and participate - the likes of Elroy Gelant and Jerry Motsau. We also have other's like Joanne van Dyk in the 5km fun run who's not necessarily a runner but an Olympic javelin thrower. So we have top elite athletes not only runners who will come and participate."