Imbali to Howick for Mandela Marathon

2012-06-26 00:00

NELSON Mandela’s long walk to freedom took 27 years.

In August, an anticipated 500 runners will be the first to undertake a symbolic edition of the journey when the inaugural Mandela Day Marathon between Imbali and Howick is run.

A few uphill struggles await the field, which not only faces some of the steepest gradients on the way to the tape, but will see runners trudge a route chosen for its historical significance.

Organisers have gone out of their way to ensure the 42,2 km run is steeped in history by paying tribute to the country’s former president in more than just name.

“This 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,” said Yusuf Bhamjee, mayor of uMgungundlovu District Municipality, a main organiser of the race.

Initially scheduled for July 8, the marathon was moved to August 26 to allow time for proper preparations.

The month will mark 50 years since Mandela was arrested on the R103 outside Howick, and again, drawing on the Madiba legacy, organisers will invite entries on his 94th birthday on July 18.

The entry process will close 27 days later, signifying each year he was incarcerated.

The municipality has worked with KwaZulu-Natal Athletics on the project, which has been described as a “long-term” concept.

uMgungundlovu municipal manager Sbu Khuzwayo said this year’s event was a “seed” they wished to nurture so that the stature of the race would start capturing international attention to rival big marathons like London, New York and Berlin in years to come.

“We want it to become one of the top 20 international races once we have grown it,” said Khuzwayo.

Funding from the district municipality and the provincial Department of Sports and Recreation to the tune of R1,5 million has been secured, with ongoing attempts to bring more corporate sponsors on board.

Local municipalities uMngeni and Msunduzi have already promised their support with traffic control.

The marathon will serve as a qualifier for the Comrades Marathon and the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town.

Race winners — men and women — will walk away with R30 000 each, and total prize money amounts to R253 000.

The route begins at Manaye Hall in Imbali where, on 26 March 1961, Mandela gave a surprise speech — his last as a free man — at the All-In-Africa Conference organised by the ANC.

At the time he was a man hunted by the apartheid authorities.

Just over a year later, he was arrested.

Runners will finish near his capture site.

KZN Athletics chairperson Sello Mokoena emphasised the race was about more than the novelty of Mandela’s name.

“This is a special event — it is not an ordinary race or marathon. This is to honour a special person,” he said.

• The website www.mandelamarathon.co.za is currently under construction, but will furnish more information once it goes online in the coming weeks.

• brett.horner@witness.co.za

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