10/11/2008 08:45 - (SA)
Riëtte Olivier, Die Burger
Port Elizabeth - A marathon runner from Despatch will have to learn to walk again after some of the "spectators" in Walmer township attacked her during the Algoa Bus Bay to Bay Challenge on Saturday, stabbing her three times in the back with a knife.
"My legs immediately went lame, said Theresa Matthysen, 42, from her hospital bed on Sunday.
"And when I fell down, they stole my shoes off my feet. They also took my wristwatch."
The incident occurred in Victoria Lane in Walmer township, where Matthysen was running her leg of the relay in the Bay to Bay race.
In this race between Jeffreys Bay and Port Elizabeth, athletes compete individually and in relays against the well-known tourist bus, Lady Elizabeth, over distances of 50km and 100km respectively.
It is the second time in four months that a participant in a public race in the Eastern Cape has been attacked by a "spectator".
In the Washie 100-mile-ultramarathon between Port Alfred and East London in July, a man grabbed Susan Hurter, 46, by her ponytail and dragged her off the road.
She struggled and managed to free herself. The man ran away.
'I felt a terrible pain'
In Matthysen's case the "spectators" stood in the road and she had to run through the throng.
"That's when one of them grabbed me around the neck. I felt a terrible pain in my back and first thought I had been hit, but then I saw the bloodied knife in the other one's hand."
The men fled into the township after they had robbed her of her shoes and wristwatch.
She was left lying in the road. Shortly afterwards, two other participants who had completed their part of the relay, drove by and saw Matthysen lying there.
"The one took off his shirt and pressed it on the wounds to stop the bleeding, while the other one called an ambulance," Matthysen's husband, Johan, said at her bedside in the Life St George Hospital on Sunday.
In the meantime, a back specialist has established that one of her vertebrae had splintered.
"The doctor said it isn't life-threatening and he therefore doesn't want to operate," Matthysen said.
Some of her spinal nerves were also damaged, and by Sunday afternoon she still had no feeling in her left leg.
"The doctor said I will have to learn to walk from scratch, but at least I am alive," she said.
The Matthysens believe the race route should be changed next year. "Or there should be better policing."
Race organiser, Mike Zoetmulder, said the attack was "absolutely shocking".
Matthysen was going to lay a charge at the police station on Sunday.
- Die Burger