23 August 2016 – Gordon Reid was referred to an article in The Sunday Times in December 2015 as “Durban’s very own superman”. He truly has earned the moniker.
Part of that description came as a result of two incidents, the first of which occurred in 2005, when he witnessed a light aircraft crash in Durban. He rushed to the accident scene and helped an Austrian family out of the wreckage of their plane, while last year he spotted a fire in a hotel while out for an early morning cycle and not only raised the alarm, but also helped guests escape the blaze.
Yet, what makes him an extraordinary man is his ceaseless hard work for CHOC, the Childhood Cancer Foundation of South Africa, with the Ethembeni School and Cato Ridge Primary School, both of which serve physically disabled and visually-impaired children, also benefitting from his charitable pursuits.
“The attraction with the Cows is that it takes the competitive element out of it for me,” he explained on Tuesday. “It allows me to take part in all of these wonderful things, and raising money seems to be a challenge. It has snowballed from there.”
Gordon, who heads up MG Print Services in Durban, has so far raised an amazing R250 000 for CHOC. He and his team in the east coast city raised R770 000 for childhood cancer in the last financial year.
Love living life
With a laugh, he said: “The whole thing about the Cows is love living life [the Cow’s motto]. We’ve got to appreciate the life that we’ve got.”
In 2012, after undergoing five general anaesthetics, he realised that he was into his forties and it was time to look after his health. The Cows suggested that he should take on something he would normally never have done. That something was a half-Ironman triathlon.
Recalling that first event, Gordon said: “Up until that day, I had never run a 21.1km in my life before, so I trained hard, but could have trained harder. That ignited my passion for keeping fit.
“Now, with all of these events, people want the Cows there, so we get invited and race them, although it does cost a fortune in things like entrance fees.
“It’s more a case of trying to keep physically fit, trying to be a good example to the kids, and a large part of it is trying to create awareness for childhood cancer.”
Childhood cancer in South Africa
In first world countries, eight out of 10 children survive childhood cancer. In the third world, those figures plummet to two out of 10. “Those are the two that are getting diagnosed,” Gordon added. “We have massive problems in the rural areas where there is still a stigma about cancer, where it is not understood.”
His involvement with CHOC is not just about fund-raising, it is also about visiting sick kids in hospital wards and playing with them, helping them to escape their illnesses and pain for a while.
Mostly, though, it is about pulling on a hot Cow suit and taking on a physical challenge. “Your body takes about an hour to regulate and then you are fine. You’ve got to drink a helluva lot more and you’ve got to be aware of that,” Gordon said.
Among the events he has been involved with are the aQuellé Midmar Mile, the Amashova Durban Classic, cycled between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, and the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge, in Johannesburg.
“When we do the Amashova, I make sure I am pacing myself. It’s also about creating awareness on the day, stopping and chatting with people and mooing at them, and doing all sorts of stupid things to raise awareness.”
His equipment has seldom been at the cutting edge of racing design and on a couple of occasions Gordon has taken on cycling races on an ice-cream bike.
“I did two races on that last year. Never again! That’s a special kind of suffering: 65 kilograms with one gear! The parallels are there for the kids’ suffering. That’s why we do suffer. We don’t put gears on or try to get a lighter bike or anything like that,” he shared.
“There is also a lot of teamwork. Last year, for instance, I had a great team of eight people who pushed and pulled me uphill and got me to the finishing line safely. Joburg [the Cycle Challenge] was a bit different. I had only two guys for the first 60 kilometres and completely burnt out, and then had another four strong guys come and pull me to the finish. It’s teamwork and it’s fun and it’s suffering, but it has taught me a lot.
“I did my first marathon last year and the biggest enjoyment was the mind games. Your body is screaming, telling you to stop and that mind game is about carrying on. Transferring those skills into business has also been fun.”
People who are part of the CHOC fund-raising efforts don’t automatically receive Cows’ kit. For the Midmar Mile, if they raise R2 500 they receive a costume. For running, cycling or triathlon events, if someone raises R6 000 they qualify for a running, cycling or triathlon kit. Those who raise over R20 000 are loaned a Cow suit. “It is never given to you, but you use it for the events,” Gordon said, adding that the Midmar Mile might be a good opportunity for Saint Andrew’s to throw their weight behind CHOC.
His family plays a big role in supporting CHOC too, he continued: “Their support has been massive. Obviously we got affected with my mom [Joan, a former Saints’ squash coach] passing away last year in February. They’ve really come on board. My eldest, we’re going to do the Amashova this year on a tandem. She’s loving being involved. I got a R20 000 donation for her the other day.”
Gordon finished off by saying that he had learnt a lot at Saint Andrew’s that had equipped him well to take on the challenges of life after school.
“Saints provided a fantastic grounding: the people, the morals, the honesty, the ethics, the teachers, Chapel every morning. I was a bit of a rebel, but certainly Saints was a massive grounding.”
You can learn more about the Cows on their website – http://www.thecows.co.za/ – or look them up on their Choc Cows Durban Herd Facebook page – – https://www.facebook.com/ChocCowsDurbanHerd/