Sunday, March 26, 2006

Comrades 2006

When it comes to unselfish acts, there are many stories that involve Comrades runners. But few tug at the heart strings like Hennie Loots and Henk Meyer.
This year Loots helped Meyer through to his seventh Comrades finish in 10:31. What makes it so special is that Meyer is so badly mentally retarded that he doesn't now his age, cannot read or spell and has no idea of the distance that he runs every year. He only has 40% use of his left arm and although 34 years of age, has the mental capacity of a four year old. Loots' job during Comrades is to ensure that he finishes, hydrates correctly and does not get lost.
"Henk is my sister's son and he got malaria when he was four which affected half of his brain", the 48-year-old Loots explains. "But we've noticed that with the running, he is starting to improve." Loots, who often travels through from Roodeport to pick up Meyer in Hartebeespoort, does train with Meyer and also assists him in other races. "I've been doing it for 10 years now and it's worth the effort," Loots says. "It's rewarding to see the positive effect it has on him."
Comrades 2003 was a tough one for Meyer, who finished his seventh Comrades and Loots his eleventh. "With 10km to go he started to cry and said that he couldn't continue," Loots said, "but there's an inner strength in him that's unexplainable and he kept going"

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