Running to honour Madiba

2013-08-24 00:00

HOW do you celebrate and acknowledge the 95th birthday, life, struggle, inspirational leadership and ideals of world icon Nelson Mandela?

If you are a runner, then you challenge yourself over what would normally be considered a ludicrous marathon route. It commences at 700 m; ascends 900 m; drops 450 m and finishes at 1 140 m, but when linked to Madiba seems the most logical and obvious way to give respect to a man who changed the world. As ridiculous as the route may seem, over 2 100 runners will take on this challenge from Edendale at 7 am tomorrow, with another 1 800 covering a less taxing 10 km.

The local geography provides no meaningful options for the improbable and daunting course that links two key milestones in the history of the great man: on March 25, 1961, Nelson Mandela made a surprise appearance at the All-In African conference held in the Manaye Hall on F.J. Sithole Road in Imbali, Edendale. It was at this congress that the term “Amandla” (power to the people) became popular and it is here that the Mandela Marathon starts.

Spin the calendar forward to August 5, 1962 when the national security forces, who had constantly hunted down Mandela, stopped and detained their quarry on the road to Tweedie, just west of Midmar Dam.

Mandela’s capture was the first step in what would become 27 years of incarceration. It is now marked by a multi-faceted facial sculpture of the man who has become a beacon of hope, truth and vision for the world. Running between these two landmarks in his life is a course that symbolises the torturous nature of Mandela’s fight for freedom and against oppression.

It’s an uphill battle for the first kilometre. This is followed by a quad-hammering downhill and undulations that instill a false sense of security before “Struggle Hill”, a 7,5 km climb up Caluza Road to the Sweetwaters Road link at Mtolo’s Butchery. The shorter but steeper 2,5 km “Challenge Climb” is next, peaking out at the highest point on the route, just before Hilton.

As runners drop down through Hilton’s residential roads they complete the first half. Then they hurtle down past the Rotunda, over the N3 and on to the undulations of Merrivale Heights before passing back under the N3 to enter Howick.

Twisting past the water tower, runners now enter the Howick sports stadium, passing two monolithic memorials to the Anglo-Boer war, before rejoining the main Howick Road. It is here that the 10 km run commences, sharing the same undulating course back out to the N3 highway, past the scenic inspiration of Midmar Dam and on to Tweedie.

In the shadow of the dramatic backdrop of the Drakensberg mountains, runners turn into the Capture Memorial and Museum. The face of Mandela draws runners uphill over the final 300 m, where they symbolically complete their own “struggle” of 42,195 km.

Hot spot incentives of R10 000 for the first runner through the top of Struggle Hill, and R15 000 for the first through half way, provide yet another dimension that will see elite runners power up the hills in search of financial glory, but pay the price over the remaining distance. Those adopting a more conservative approach will earn a portion of the R280 000 on offer to the top 10 men and women.

Tomorrow’s second Mandela Marathon will be something special that will provide memories for all those who complete the challenge.

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