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Making whoopee before a race not that bad, says former Two Oceans winner

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Now a retired man who whiles away his time as a taxi driver out in Secunda, Mpumalanga, Choeu – originally from Glen Cowie village in Limpopo – chuckles at the memories of this race.

The finish line of the Two Oceans Marathon last year. Picture: Ian Landsberg, African News Agency (ANA)

Matshelane Mamabolo

IT is generally acknowledged that sex before a competitive sporting event is a no. It is for that reason athletes in most sports go on camp prior to events. Keep them away from their spouses lest they are tempted to engage, right? But is making whoopee before racing really that bad?

A former Two Oceans Marathon winner would argue otherwise. Back in 1982, Ben Choeu sprung a huge surprise when he won The World’s Most Beautiful Marathon as a novice.

Now a retired man who whiles away his time as a taxi driver out in Secunda, Mpumalanga, Choeu – originally from Glen Cowie village in Limpopo – chuckles at the memories of this race.

Here’s his story as he told it to me …

“I went to the 1982 Two Oceans as a novice. When I got there they said to me Two Oceans is tough and they wanted me to go see the route. I said to them, ‘I don’t want to see it’.

So I went to the hotel and as a young man I was a bit stout (naughty) so I met this white woman and we had great fun together the night before the race.

(It must be remembered that back then inter-racial relations were forbidden by the apartheid regime and Choeu could thus have been in big trouble had he been caught. But such are the adventures of youth, right?).

I went to the race the next morning and I stayed with the bunch for the first half of the race.

For the first 28km I was not running. I had found a lift.

I was a passenger in the car (he laughs) but I felt the car was going too slow, so I got off and I started running from the top of Chapman’s Peak. I honestly felt they were running too slow for me.

It got hard when I reached the 42km mark (Constantia Nek) so I struggled a bit.

But I was all alone because I’d left them all behind. I had a lead of almost 1.5km.

I literally won that race unchallenged. I think the runner-up was still not at the finish when I left for the hotel.”

Of course, Choeu exaggerates the gap he had a bit.

But it was a no-contest all right, the Kinross Mine runner winning in 3:11:15, a good 2min:30sec ahead of the second-placed John Donald. Will Ferrell – a revered runner whom Choeu had shown a clean pair of heels in the JSE 50km Ultra Marathon between Pretoria and Johannesburg (later named City to City) – occupied the last podium spot in 3:14:01. That he was cocky for that Two Oceans was no coincidence.

Choeu had, after all, just been awarded Springbok colours for the marathon just two days before the race having finished fourth in the SA Marathon Championships in 2:19:55 the year before.

He’d had an incredible 1981, the JSE 50km Ultra victory coming just six days after his win in the Durban AC Marathon in a personal best time of 2:14:12.

He added the Pretoria Marathon title (2:14:47) to that haul a month later.

Following his victory at Two Oceans, he ran a half marathon PB of 63:02 and was duly named the 1982 South African Male Road Runner of the Year.

He added two more Two Oceans Ultra podium finishes – finishing as runner-up in 1985 and third the following year.

And what’s Choeu’s advice to runners taking on the Two Oceans this weekend?

“Stick to your race plan no matter what’s happening around you.”

And sex the night before a race?

“You can engage in it, as long as it is not too much.

“The key is to have enough rest before the race.”

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