Race to honour Mandela, the king of Marathons
IN COMMEMORATING 50 years since the arrest of South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela, the uMgungundlovu district municipality plans to hold the inaugural 42.2km Mandela Day Marathon from Pietermaritzburg to Howick, where he was captured.
Mandela was captured on August 5 1962 near Howick and was incarcerated the following year and sent on Robben Island, where he spent a "marathon" 27 years behind bars.
"The marathon reflects, in a symbolic way, the gruelling marathon that Nelson Mandela had to run to lay the foundation for the democratic and free South Africa that we currently enjoy," uMgungundlovu district mayor Yusuf Bhamjee said yesterday.
Bhamjee said there was no better way to remember, honour and celebrate Mandela's selflessness to the betterment of the entire world than to have this marathon, which is a qualifier for both the Comrades Marathon and the Two Oceans Marathon.
"This race is a way for us to rekindle our special relationship with the great Nelson Mandela and say 'thank you for the life which symbolises the triumph of the human spirit," Bhamjee said.
He explained that Mandela had a long history, not just with Pietermaritzburg, but with the district as a whole.
"The starting point of the race, Manaye Hall in iMbali, was the venue for the All-In-Africa Conference organised by the ANC on March 25 1961," said Bhamjee.
"All political parties were invited but most backed off as they were not prepared to challenge the apartheid regime.
"At the hall, Madiba made a surprise appearance and addressed the gathering, even though he was on the run, already evading the police."
Bhamjee said sport contributed immensely towards social cohesion and nation building as well as towards attracting foreign investment.
"Participating and winning a marathon demands a lot from the participant. It requires hours of training, demands discipline and an understanding of the task at hand and test of character."
KwaZulu-Natal Athletics president Sello Mokoena said: "It is a special event to honour a special person. Sometimes, we as South Africans don't realise how fortunate we are to be in the same space, to breathe the same air with Mandela."
uMgungundlovu manager Sbu Khuzwayo said the city had made R1.5-million available for the race and, of the amount, R253000 was for prizes.
"We are talking to the Nelson Mandela Foundation and have engaged the Mandela family who gave us their blessings. We want to make this race to be among the top 20 international marathons in the next two years," Khuzwayo said.
He said entry for the race opens on July 18 to coincide with Mandela's birthday and closes 27 days later .