Pietermaritzburg – Among the paddlers at next week’s Dusi Canoe Marathon from 15 to 17 February, are a father and son pairing looking to create history.
Mark Evered-Hall (55) and his Dad Tony, are teaming up for their 10th Dusi together and Tony, at 80 years and nine months old, is hoping to become the oldest ever finisher at the race, beating Hugh Raw who was 80 and four months in 2021.
The pair has a wealth of experience on the river between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. Mark has completed 30 races, 19 consecutively, and Tony going for his 16th. They hail from Durban, belong to Crusaders Canoe Club and do most of their training at the mouth of the uMngeni River, a regular 10km up-river-and-back routine.
“Dad is unbelievably strong for his age. I would say he is in better shape than I am. My knees are shot and he keeps going. He does park runs in under six minutes a kilometre,” said Mark. “He’s made from solid material, built to last, adding 24 Comrades to his achievements as well.”
Tony’s first Dusi was in 1971, when competitors made their own boats and had to plan their routes with whoever was willing to help them along the way. He has seen so many changes and so much growth in the race, yet the pleasure and peace of being on the water and in the valley for three days is what does it for him.
“It’s pure magic being at one with nature and on the water for the three days. The camaraderie is unique and the support and encouragement makes Dusi a unique event. It’s something that satisfies the soul and is a privilege to be part of,” he said.
The family have also enjoyed some memorable moments over the years at Dusi. In 2008, Mark, Tony and Mark’s brother Guy, completed the race as a K3 team. Then, in 2012, Mark and Tony were joined by Mark’s son and Tony’s grandson Joshua as the three generations conquered the river. The family tradition was completed in 2016 when daughter and granddaughter Sarah-Ann was taken down the river by dad and grandfather.
However, there were anxious moments in December last year when it looked as though this year’s Dusi dreams would be shattered. “Dad had to have his gall bladder removed and everything was on hold for a few anxious weeks, but he has made a great recovery, coming back strong, and we are all systems go again,” said Mark.
Tony will be the anchor at the back of the boat this year, and Mark has a clear game plan on how to complete the race. “I’m just going to walk and Dad will carry the boat,” he laughed.
The Dusi starts at Bishopstowe Hall on Thursday and finishes at Durban’s Blue Lagoon on Saturday. The two overnight stops are at Mphaya Bridge near Nagle Dam and at Inanda Dam.