Samuel “Sammy” Jones, 63, is a legend on the road.
A familiar figure at road races across the city and country, Jones was one of the first to join the then newly established Mitchell’s Plain Titans Athletic Club in 2006.
On Sunday he joined 25 invited runners in an event organised by Ommiedraai Athletic Club to help raise funds for the amaBele Project Flamingo, a non-profit organisation involved with support programmes for cancer patients.
The runners, representing clubs across the city, embarked on an ambitious 100km run – some doing 25km or 50km relays, others from start to finish.
The event, named 10 Squared Ultra Marathon, was the first organised actual road run as opposed a virtual race, in the city, since the lockdown kicked in in March, starting at Groote Schuur Hospital where Project Flamingo is based, heading down to Lakeside and back towards town and finishing on Rondebosch Common.
Always up for a challenge, Jones, supported by clubmates Ebrahim Fagodien and Riedwaan Trimble opted to do the full 100km run.
And it does not sit in anyone’s shoes to keep up with this Jones, as he has completed 22 Two Oceans Marathons, three of them back-to-back – that’s runing from start to finish and back again, on the same day. He also has 17 Comrades and ten 100mile (160km) ultra marathons under his belt and did a whopping 230km 24-hour run from his home, in Tafelsig, to Saldanah in 2004.
Sunday’s run was not just another day on the road for Jones, who said he was doing it for a cause close to his heart.
No stranger to running for good causes, Jones jumped at the opportunity to do his bit to help raise funds for the fight against cancer when Frank Steyn, the manager of school sports development programme, Run4Schools, pulled out due to injury and asked him to take his place among the 25 runners at the starting line.
He says he was – and still is – inspired by his late wife Elle-Norah, a former nurse, who died eight years ago, to do his back-to-back Ocean runs to help raise funds for the hospital she worked at.
“My younger brother, Jonathan, introduced me to running,” he said.
“I was 36 when I started in 1996 and did my first Comrades with Johnny that same year,” he said.
“After that there was no stopping me. I just kept at it and even beat my brother, eventually,” said Jones.
He said he has kept fit throughout the lockdown period, running in his yard and in his neighbourhood, once outdoor exercise was allowed in terms of the lockdown restrictions.
“It’s important to stay fit and healthy,” he said.
In thanking Jones and the other runners, JT Slingers, 10 Squared co-ordinator, called the run a huge success.
“Sunday’s ultra marathon was unique in that runners from across the Western Cape put aside club/ crew affiliations to run as one under the Project Flamingo banner,” Slingers said.
He said the aim was to raise awareness for the phenomenal work that Project Flamingo does and to raise R100 000 for 25 lifesaving breast cancer operations. “Those that participated come from different clubs. We had representatives from Must Love Hills, Mitchell’s Plain Titans, Bokaap, Magic Bus, Tygerberg and of course the club that I belong to Ommiedraai Friends AC.
“This was an invitation-only run,” he said, “since we wanted to respect Covid-19 protocols.
“We wanted the runners to commit to raising at least one operation’s money. When you signed up you agreed that you would use your network to raise the required R4 000 which went directly into Project Flamingo’s bank account.“In the end we smashed that target and the donations continue to roll in. At last count we raised over R155 000 which amounts to 39 operations for vulnerable women.”
Slingers, who headed up a fitness programme (O-Fitness) for Ommiedraai during their virtual race series during lockdown, said club members became aware of the work that Project Flamingo does when they raised R66 000 for the NPO earlier this year.
“Project Flamingo helps providing catch-up surgeries to reduce government hospital waiting lists.
“These women are then spared agonisingly long waiting periods for a lifesaving op.
“Surgical staff volunteer their time and one op costs R4 000 because of associated medical consumables and nursing staff who need to be paid.
“The organisation is 10 years old this year and like most charitable organisations they need all the help they can get to keep operating,” he said.
Dr Liana Roodt, founder and lead surgeon on Project Flamingo, was at the finish line.
“These men put their bodies on the line to do this for the patients of Project Flamingo.
“The pandemic means that waiting lists that were already long have now gotten even longer and this fundraiser, which is the biggest we have ever experienced, will help more vulnerable patients get the help they need faster.
“We appreciate the Marathon Men and the organisers of the 10 Squared Ultra Marathon for this phenomenal achievement,” she said.