Finishing off with a bang
Finishing the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon (OMTOM) is no easy feat. And we aren’t talking about runners either. Like every other race, the OMTOM reaches an inevitable conclusion when time is up. Frikkie Kotze is a technical official and timekeeper of the Ultra Marathon, and it’s his job is to make sure the race ends with a bang.
“Come the end of the race, it’s my job to make sure that it’s all over by firing the final gun. But there is more to it than just ending the day. I am also a technical official and timekeeper.”
After working for Telkom for an impressive 30 years Kotze, a pensioner, wasn’t interested in kicking his feet up for a well-deserved retirement. He instead opted for a permanent position as a timekeeper - something that was only meant to be a hobby.
“I did my starter course through Western Province Athletics. Once you complete various levels you move on to a level one and level two, and from there you can go into the IAAF courses.
“All these courses cover many aspects of athletics. The beginner course covers what happens in athletics across the board, from cross country, road walking and race walking. Then you can specialise to become a technical official through the Western Province where I chose to focus my specialisation on timing and chip timing. Part of my duty for the race is to make sure that all clocks are synched up, and guns and cannons alike are fired on time.”
Ticking like clockwork
Twelve years on and Kotze has a position that many a runner has grown to lament, but the technical official says that he enjoys the responsibility.
“Believe it or not, I have a lot of fun with this position. A lot of people say that I don’t have a heart at that time of the day. For instance, I fired the final gun when my wife was just about to cross the line and she missed the cut-off. But a rule is a rule and when the gun goes off, the gun goes off!”
Kotze confesses, “My wife was doing the OMTOM Half Marathon one year and she wasn’t feeling well. I shot the gun just as she was coming to the finish line - she just didn’t make it. She didn’t speak to me for a little while after that but she realised that there is a rule that I needed to stick to!”
Despite this minor family drama at the finish line, Kotze is grateful to be involved in such an esteemed event, and appreciates the will and strength of all the athletes.
“Timing was a hobby which then became a full time responsibility, and it has given me this great opportunity to work at the OMTOM.
“I love meeting everybody. Most of the runners I know by name now because I have been at this job for so long. The atmosphere is just so special. The camaraderie among the runners is unparalleled, especially in the morning when the cannon goes off, you just can’t explain it to anybody else.”