Heroes Marathon boosts athletics

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Nelson Mandela's home town of Qunu in Transkei, Eastern Cape, will come alive on December 16 when local and foreign athletes compete in the yearly Vodacom Heroes Marathon.

Aimed at drumming interest in athletics among locals in this boxing and rugby-mad province, the race will start near Mandela's house at 6am.

The finish will be at the Walter Sisulu University in Transkei.

The event, which has been graced by the former president's grandson Mandla Mandela, has attracted household names like Josia Thugwane, Brian Zondi and Mluleki Nobanda.

"We have also managed to lure top marathon runners from neighbouring countries such as Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Mozambique to this race and we expect them to come again this year," the event's organiser, Luthando "Shooz" Charlie, told Sowetan yesterday.

"We started the race in 1999 with a clear intention of positioning athletics, especially long and middle distance, in the province. We are happy with the way the event has panned out in terms of promoting athletics around Transkei.

"The race takes place on the Day of Reconciliation, which gives us an appropriate thematic expression given South Africa's historic context and the role played by sport in healing, reconciling and nation building.

"The Heroes Marathon also seeks to commemorate and celebrate the heroic achievements of our democracy."

The winners in both categories will take home a new Ford Bantam. Top Mozambican runner Henry Moyo won the race last year, while Matrita Moto of Lesotho won the women's race.

There will also be a 10km race at 6.30am and a 5km fun run at 8am.