BEHIND every successful man there may be a woman but behind thousands of women (and confused men) who hit the streets in Summerstrand each May there is one man.
Fodyce Road, Walmer resident Loynes Jenkerson, 70, and his team have been organising the Port Elizabeth leg of the annual Spar Ladies 10km Challenge which will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year.
Sport, especially roadrunning, has been part of his life since his days at Lawson Brown High School nearly 60 years ago. Jenkerson says he was inspired by the legendary Vernon Barnes who was a pupil at the school. Barnes died tragically when he was only 22.
For many years the Vernon Barnes Memorial race meeting at the Westbourne Oval was one the highlights of the national racing calendar. Johan Fourie, Matthews Temane, Fanie van Zijl and Xolie Yawa were among the big names who ran in these races.
Jenkerson’s proudest moment is completing a standard marathon in 2.49 – when he was 44.
About 30 years ago Jenkerson and a group of runners started running a relay to Cape Town to raise funds to buy wheelchairs for the disabled. Runners took turns running 10km legs and completed the race in 56 hours.
Around the same time the only Spar Ladies race was being run in Durban.
In 1995 Jenkerson reserved a date with EP Athletic Union for a race on behalf of his club. He decided to apply for permission to organise the ladies race instead.
Local officials scoffed at the idea with one official, who Jenkerson refuses to name, saying it would never work and “you will be lucky if you get 27 ladies!”.
The inaugural race attracted 287 participants.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
The race has grown in leaps and bounds every year with just over 12000 taking to the roads last year.
The Spar Ladies 10km Challenge is five races run countrywide as part of a Grand Prix.
The Grand Prix is worth R170000 in total, with the winner taking home R60000. The runner-up receives R30000 and the third placed athlete R15000. The top 10 runners in the open category and the first three in the four age categories all receive cash prizes.
Jenkerson said the only blimp on the radar in the local race was about 10 years ago when Leonard Chuene, the national athletics boss at the time, wanted a piece of the action and tried to take over the ownership of the race.
Chuene was at the centre of the Caster Semenya gender scandal last year, and was fired and banned from the sport for seven years.
“Spar has been good to us and their sponsorship has contributed to the success of the race, not only in Port Elizabeth, but in the other cities as well,” Jenkerson said.
“Only when I am dead,” he quipped.
‘When he is not busy organising the Spar Ladies race Jenkerson runs his printing business from his home in Walmer.