Nagle Dam is such a special place for me- it’s where I spent 3 months before Dusi 2008 training (and living) with Bungi. It’s where my ‘Change a life’ Academy idea was sparked and then evolved into a squad of talented paddling and multisport athletes.  And now… it’s home to my first Interschool Running Sportsday. And what a lekker day it was.

One of many youngsters showing fine form and raw running talent

Although a small event to start with, the feeling at Nagle Dam was incredibly vibey as the local DJ (who had set up four big ‘boom boxes’, standing 6 feet tall), plus the excitement of the pupils, teachers, supporters and onlookers, created a celebratory/colourful atmosphere that only our nation know how to create.

I was further surprised that very early Saturday morning, as a headmaster from a junior school, that I haven’t yet got involved in the weekly running Time Trials, phoned to ask why their school hadn’t been included in the league and if he could bring 20 of his junior school pupils to participate in the run? (At the moment this is a pilot project to see the response and enthusiasm from the schools and those in charge to determine the feasibility of such a program in this Valley of a Thousand Hills). I can’t believe the commitment to the weekly trail runs and the competitiveness that is already brewing amongst the schools.

Total commitment… when you can race with only one shoe on

A perfect Natal winters day was already a scorcher by the time I set the juniors off on their 3.5km trail. I only hoped that the littlest competitor, just 9 years old, could handle the heat and the pace as he blasted off the start hoping to hang in with his peers for as long as possible. The High Schools athletes had a demon7km  route to contend with, circumnavigating Nagle Dam, with a challenging Kopje to conquer. They too threw all ‘pace setting’ advice out the window as I shouted GO! 

 Briefing the eager competitors

Both races proved to be challenging as the finish line was littered with exhausted pupils – they had all given it their best shot- not only wanting to gain prestige as the fastest runners, but with the incentive of first prize- a movie ticket and Spur meal for the 10 best runners (Seven Boys and three Girls) from the winning schools for the Juniors and the Senior Schools, plus of course the School Principal and Sports Teacher. Second Prize was a Spur meal, and third – food parcels for their families.

The winning Schools brandishing their trophies

Some girls really gave the boys a thrashing….

The competitors thought they were in heaven when handed their very own ‘whole 500ml USN Active Sports Drink’ (time trials they got a cup) to put petrol back in the tank and were very very grateful to receive a boerewors roll, which my ‘Change a life’ guys had braai’d to perfection (kindly donated by Parklane Spar).

Chuffed Principals and Sports Teachers


It’s very pleasing that Virgin Active has ‘put their equipment where their mouth is’, as a stack was delivered to the valley on Friday and secured in ‘the gym’ close to Nagle Dam. The guys are really looking forward to the super circuit sessions- but firstly I will have to get a professional come down to show the guys how to use the machines correctly and demonstrate paddling specific exercises to prevent unnecessary injuries (and so that they don’t get side-tracked pumping the heaviest iron to build their physiques for charming the ladies).

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