Despite a strong wind in the last leg of this year’s Bergrivier Canoe Marathon, the 84-year-old Jannie Malherbe still had more than enough marrow in his pipes to successfully complete this race for the 50th time.
“The wind we got from the front the last few days was extremely exhausting. What motivated me to keep going is daring. In any case, giving up has never been an option for me,” Jannie tells RNews.
He adds that this major milestone is much more than the number of races completed. “People think you’ve done it 50 times, but actually you’ve done it hundreds of times. It takes a lot of practice to prepare for such a marathon.”
Jannie’s canoeing adventures on the Berg River began in 1962 when he finished fourth in the very first ever race between the Paarl and Velddrif. Since then, he has been crowned king in this iconic marathon quite a few times, and he has also acquired Springbok colors in the sport.
Although Jannie has already achieved what he wanted, it is still fun for him to get into his canoe, train and then take on this 240 km marathon.
“Every Bergrivier marathon is different; no one is ever the same. Over the years, however, it is the difficult races that you remember,” says Jannie. He jokingly adds: “I did start to notice that now in my old age it is necessary to train harder if I want to finish comfortably.”
Every year he is anew in awe of the absolute unspoiled nature that he experiences on the route, and the different conditions make it a wonderful challenge.
When asked if he will report back to the starting point of the Bergrivier marathon next year, Jannie says that he is already considering it at this stage.
“Retiring at 65 and then suddenly wanting to stop when you are still able to live life to the fullest is a big change. As long as I’m healthy, I’ll keep training and keep going. I still hike and fish often. Fortunately, rowing is a sport that is gentle on your body.”