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The hometown crowd

The hometown crowd

Words: Melanie Ho

Three competitors and one volunteer from Namibia play an

integral part of RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009.


During last Friday’s equipment check-in, volunteer Armand Moller (Namibia) was busy weighing bags.  While the majority of the competitors queued during the afternoon session, Moller’s brother, Charl (Namibia), a competitor in RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009, would only arrive later in the evening – after he finished work for the day in Windhoek. 


Almost all of the competitors, volunteers and organisers have traveled long and far to take part in the event, but the Moller brothers, Russell Paschke (Namibia) and Sieglinde Gontes (Namibia) are the only ones who did not need to board an airplane before arriving in Namibia.  They are also the only ones who worked right up until the long drive down to Camp 1 last Saturday. 


Charl Moller, distinguishable by his long gray hair, is one of three Namibian competitors in the race.  After completing the Gobi March (China) 2006, Moller thought it would be a great idea to have a similar foot-race in Namibia.  Now, that idea has come to fruition. 


“The countryside is really lending itself to be a challenge,” Charl Moller said.  Though he has been to the Fish River Canyon before, Moller had not previously been through other parts of the race course. 


“The country lends itself to this kind of race, the terrain is good and I think it’s also great for people to see Namibia,” Charl Moller said.  “The canyon and the dunes are of course the toughest parts of the course, but also the most stunning.”


Gontes admitted she had difficulty sleeping after Stage 1 and said even she hadn’t anticipated the cold weather and winds which struck through Camp 2 at night.  The native of the Swakopmund Coast now lives in Windhoek and is self-employed, owning a small butcher’s shop. 


“I just wanted to do it, I saw a race like this on television and when I heard about this race, I decided I wanted to do it,” Gontes said.  Having raced her first marathon in 1996, Gontes has, since then, become a consistent runner, although RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009 is her first 250-km stage race. 


One of the attractions, the scenery, was a major drawing point.  Having never been to these parts of Namibia nor seen the Fish River Canyon in person, Gontes was anxious to catch a glimpse for herself. 


“The areas are different than what I thought they would be, but the areas are all beautiful,” Gontes said. 


Paschke, who holds the record for hiking the 84-km Fish River Canyon in the fastest time, signed up for the race just three months ago.  Though a back injury had put him out of commission for seven months, Paschke said he was determined to be a part of RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009 in part because he wanted to get back into training and in part because he wanted to see his country in a different light.  Unfortunately, Paschke had to withdraw from the race after Stage 1 with a back injury.  Still, Paschke said he was appreciative of what was happening. 


“I’ve done many endurance races before, but when I heard about this opportunity I knew I had to do this,” Paschke said.  “It’s amazing to see everyone here, enjoying the scenery.  They should try and visit the northern part of the country if they can, which has much more lush vegetation than here.”


While Charl Moller is competing in the race, Armand Moller opted to work as a volunteer during the event, saying that he was more of a behind-the-scenes organiser than a competitor. 


“My brother outpaces me 10 to one,” Armand Moller said.  “But I wanted to be a part because my brother is in it and I’m really keen to see him participate.  Aside from him, it’s an opportunity in my own country and not a foreign land.”


Armand Moller has been relied upon for much of his local geographical and anthropological knowledge about Namibia, but said he was also enjoying the opportunity to witness people discovering Namibia. 


“It’s a wonderful country, all of us who live here know it’s a wonderful country and we just hope that everyone here decides to come back for a second time,” Armand Moller said. 

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