previous Race Reports…

How the Bench2Bench arose?

The Bench2Bench is a commemorative fun run and walk that began in March 2008, in honour and remembrance of Denis Nixon, who was senselessly shot and killed by intruders in his home in Constantia in 2007.

Just before midnight on 20 March 2007, Denis and his nephew, Fraser, were watching cricket on TV in his le Sueur Avenue home, when three men entered the room through an open window. They then callously shot him, before holding his nephew at gun point and making off with a few insignificant possessions.

Losing someone in such a senseless way, is never easy and losing someone like Denis with such a gentle nature made it even more difficult to accept.  The Bench2Bench event has been started so that we can continue to honour and celebrate his memory.  It takes place each year around the anniversary of his passing.

Our aim is to create and maintain an event that celebrates what he stood for and to encourage everyone to get out and involved, to create new and happy memories, all in honour of Denis.

The Man himself – Denis

Denis William Nixon was born on 19 November 1947 in the Eastern Cape. As a young man he moved to Cape Town to study Mechanical Engineering at the Cape Technikon, then later a stint at UCT to study Business Administration.

He married Hinke in 1973 and started his family in 1977, having two children, Ian and Carrie. In 1980, he built his home in Constantia where he loved and lived, not ever moving again.

Denis was an avid runner, cyclist and outdoorsman with a great passion for his friends and family. He clearly loved running and encouraged everyone around him to do the same. His energy and enthusiasm inspired many people to run distances and achieve what they never imagined possible.

He was a veteran of 22 Two Oceans Full Marathons (Blue number – 683) and 27 Argus Cycle Tours (Club 21 number – ), those amongst the numerous other races and countless kilometres of training he did. Nobody can deny his dedication to being fit and readiness to tackle any task.

Besides being active, Denis had the kindest heart and if you were ever in need, he was your man! Being an engineer and an athlete was the perfect combination to solve ANY problem you might have had. His generosity was endless.

He was a patient, unselfish, considerate soul, who will be missed and celebrated by all those he touched.

May his legacy continue…

Why it’s called the Bench2Bench?

Close personal friends of Denis’, from the running fraternity, have placed a memorial bench on the Constantia greenbelt where he loved to run, just in front of his family home.

The name the Bench2Bench fun run and walk is simply that!

Both the 5km and the 8km (10km in previous years) fun run start and finish at Denis’ bench!

2008: the inaugural Bench2Bench – Run for Denis

When Carrie and Ian told us about their plans to set up an annual “Run for Denis”, my first thought was:  “What a fantastic idea – the ideal way to celebrate Denis’ life – he would have approved.”  My second thought was: “Will it work? This is uncharted territory.”

Well I am very happy to confirm that, not only did the first Bench2Bench run work, it was a resounding success.

The weather was perfect and the turnout was significantly larger that we expected with entire families turning out in force and bringing with them babies in backpacks, children in prams, dogs and even a cat.  They joined the more serious runners and walkers in a huge array of different shapes and sizes. Not surprisingly, the 5 km run/walk proved more popular with 133 entrants against 43 in the 10 km event.

Both events were “timeless runs”. Participants were required to estimate their finishing time before the event and were not allowed to run with watches.  Those finishing in a time closest to their estimate were the winners.  This, as it always does, introduced interesting tactics and led to some startling results with some of the most experienced runners getting it horribly wrong and first timers winning with a lucky guess.

Unfortunately the “timeless” format caused some administrative difficulties both at the start, with delays in registration, and at the finish, with slow processing of the results.  The spirit of the participants never wavered however and not a complaint was heard.  Entries and results processing will be better planned and more efficiently handled for the 2009 event.

The 10 km and 5 km events started together with the crowd assembled in the green belt just a few metres from the bench which honours Denis’ memory and his love for running in Constantia’s open spaces.  A short and moving address by Ian Nixon was followed immediately by a loud burst on Lynette’s VOB time trial whistle and the raucous, excited throng headed up the green belt – some at a short-lived, blistering pace and others more sedately.  For those of us who set off up that same path with Denis on countless Sunday mornings, it was a wistful moment. These memories however were soon replaced by the friendly competitive edge which characterised all our runs with Denis. He would have loved to have been there with us.

The 5 km run proved an extremely social event with the field soon spread out over hundreds of metres.  Apart from a few “athletes” at the front it was clearly regarded by the participants as a good opportunity for a social get-together rather than an athletic challenge and the noisy chatter must have woken a number of idle Constantia residents!

Not so the 10 km race where no breath was wasted on idle chatter.  The leading group, initially in close company, were emphatically split by the climb up Southern Cross Drive and, by the time the leaders turned into Silverhurst Drive, it was every man for himself. The pace picked up down the Silverhurst green belt and on to Peddlars, where, unfortunately, a couple of runners missed the turn into Strawberry Lane.  All was not lost for them however and they made up lost ground when the front runners were brought to an emphatic halt by a locked gate in the green belt adjoining Strawberry Lane!  This proved a great equaliser and resulted in some real “bush bashing” through to Spaanschemat River Road where the re-grouped runners started their serious “dash for home”.

Notwithstanding the wrong turn and the locked gate (which we will avoid in 2009), it was agreed that both routes are a success and they will be used again in 2009.  One plus is that the two routes link up at the bottom end of the Alphen green belt and from there all participants run or walk the same route to the finish.  This enables the 5 km socialites to berate the 10 km athletes who, charging for the finish line, are not capable of even a breathless response!

From the finish, the athletes and their supporters moved across to the Nixon’s garden for early morning drinks(!) and an excellent skottle breakfast.  This was followed by a highly entertaining prize giving stage-managed by the irrepressible Sid Stoffberg. In awarding the excellent array of prizes donated to the event, Sid somehow contrived to award himself the main prize, a weekend at the Arabella Spa. Fortunately he had the good sense to re-award this just before the enraged lynch mob reached him.

All in all, the 2008 Bench2Bench – Run for Denis was a happy and successful event which has the potential to continue for many years to come. And – most importantly – it is a wonderful way to remember Denis.  He would definitely approve of it!

And so it goes on…      (written by Gus Thompson – March 2008)