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Tim James - The Final Chapter

Today Tim has the final task of pushing through Stettynskloof. Arriving at Diemersfontein he will have been on the road for a continuous 36 days covering a distance of 4150 km with an accumulative elevation gain equivalent to going up Mount Everest 8 times. No one held a gun to his head and no one made their support of him conditional on pushing on like he has done. He is his own relentless taskmaster.

Since the first time Tim rolled up at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall in 2007, in the company of the 15 other people who entered The Race Across South Africa that year - the last single batch start event - he showed his determination and grit.

In the years that followed, his impact on the event continued. He pioneered the route through the Vuvu valley. He was instrumental in the rerouting of the race from Centocow to find a way into Ntsikeni on the East side.

On one particular Ntsikeni recce the support vehicle got bogged down in mud. The vehicle was packed with riders who had earlier abandoned their ride in the face of the most awful inclement weather seen on the trail. Eventually abandoning the vehicle the riders gathered their kit—the bikes were left behind—and started the long slog through the mud towards the Lodge. The rain, lack of torches and slippery mud made for a torrid experience. Tim, who didn’t get in the support vehicle earlier that day, continued riding through the cold, driving rain, all afternoon arriving at the Ntsikeni Lodge after dark. Rather than head for a warm shower he borrowed a Datsun 1200 bakkie and somehow managed to get to the riders and save them a few hours walk. Only once they were all back at the Lodge did Tim go warm himself in the shower.

Tim set early records that inspired others to emulate. He was the first to get to Ntsikeni on the first night. The first to get to Rhodes in under 3 days. The first to take on Lehana’s Pass at night. Along the way he has chalked up 3 Race Across South Africa wins and holds the Race Across South Africa single speed record.

If there is one name that comes to mind along the many support stations along the trail it is Tim. They have seen him at his best and at his worst. They have shared his cheerful disposition and seen him doubled over with nausea.

Tim is tough and he is competitive. He is tough in his endeavours but not as a person. He readily admits to moments where he has shed tears on the trail. Although competitive he is always ready to ride alongside those of lesser ability and share navigational advice to those who are uncertain. Above all else, he has been an ambassador of the Race since his wheel crossed the start line in 2007.

Today his legacy continues through the support of the Freedom community. Before he began his ride on 1 June this year, Tim’s focus was on using his trip to coalesce support for the Freedom Challenge Scholarship Fund. The response from the greater Freedom Challenge community has been overwhelming. Uncertain of Tim’s reaction once he crosses the finish line at Diemersfontein later this afternoon, one can only expect awe, raw emotions and gratitude once he realises what we as a Freedom community had contributed to the fund in support of his adventure. It far exceeds his, and anyone’s expectations. This community is amazing.

As a side note, your ongoing support of the fund since inception in 2011 has paid the tuition, clothing, boarding and travel for 77 scholars across 283 school years. If not for you guys putting your hand up to assist children in the remotest communities in our country, they would go unnoticed. Your contributions make a world of difference.

Some of us know Tim, many of us will never meet him. Yet we are all aware of him. With your generous support there is a generation of young people who may never hear his name but may be uplifted and empowered by Tim’s adventure and your enthusiastic support of that adventure. Tim’s adventure will continue to echo through the years ahead through the work of the Freedom Challenge Scholarship Fund.

Tim’s last day through Stettynskloof will be tough. But Tim is tough and he will relish the hard and appropriate challenge that signals the final day of an incredible journey.

As we close this chapter for the Freedom Challenge Scholarship Fund of 2024 it overwhelms me with emotions knowing that we all aspire to be better. To do better. To want better, and by contributing what we could, be it little, be it a fair amount bigger. We all aspire for a greater South Africa. A country so rich in culture and love. A country worthy of love and acceptance. As much as Tim leaves behind an incredibly inspiring legacy, so do we. So does our little Freedom community.

We salute you Tim. Thank you for sharing your adventure with us. Thank you for teaching us that we are all capable of being better, beautiful, good, inspiring humans on this little planet we all call home.

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beautifully written Mike, a fitting tribute, Tim is a true gentleman

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I salute you, Tim.

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