Businessman and Comrades veteran to fire cut-off gun

2015-05-28 06:00
PHOTO: sourced 

Thousands of athletes are ready to run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg on Sunday. It remains to be seen whether last year’s winner Bongumusa Mthembu will repeat his feat or if another runner will emerge as the reigning champ.

PHOTO: sourced Thousands of athletes are ready to run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg on Sunday. It remains to be seen whether last year’s winner Bongumusa Mthembu will repeat his feat or if another runner will emerge as the reigning champ.

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WELL-ESTABLISHED PMB businessman, Comrades Marathon veteran athlete Poobie Naidoo will on Sunday be responsible for firing the gun at one of the cut-off times.

Recently the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) announced the names of the dignitaries who will fire the cut-off time guns for various medals at Sunday’s 90th Comrades Marathon on 31 May.

“As a true servant of athletics in the city, especially road running, I am honoured. The Comrades Marathon is one of the local premier events and well-recognised globally. To be part of it makes me feel humble and honoured,”said Naidoo.

Others to perform the same duties are Jackie Mekler, Sam Tshabalala, Bernard Gomersall and Macdonald Chitja.

As per the Comrades Marathon up-run tradition, eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo will fire the gun at 5.30am to signal the start of South Africa’s favourite race outside the Durban City Hall.

The 11.30am cut-off gun for the Wally Hayward Medal, which is awarded to runners from the 11th position who finish under six hours, will be fired by the oldest living winner of the Comrades Marathon, Jackie Mekler. The medal was named after Hayward for having been the first winner of the race to have ever broken the six-hour barrier in the 1953 down run.

Significantly, seven years later Mekler became the first winner to break the six-hour barrier on the up run. Both Mekler and Hayward are among an illustrious group of only six runners ever to have won the race on five occasions.

The 1pm cut-off gun for the silver medal, which is awarded to runners who finish between six and 7½ hours, will be fired by Sam Tshabalala, the first black person to win the Comrades Marathon, a distinction he earned in 1989, in one of the most momentous Comrades Marathon races.

He has completed 13 Comrades Marathons, but sadly was never again able to compete at the same level, having been hampered by severe injuries sustained in a motor accident shortly after his classic win. But it only takes a single moment of genius to create history, and that is what Tshabalala did in 1989.

The honour of firing the 2.30pm cut-off gun for the Bill Rowan Medal, which is awarded to runners who finish in under nine hours, goes to the British winner of the Comrades Marathon exactly 50 years ago, Bernard Gomersall.

A member of the Road Runners Club of England, Gomersall won the 1965 Comrades Marathon in a record time of 5:51:09 for the down run. Now living in Washington DC, Bernard visiting South Africa and joining in the 90th Comrades Marathon celebrations.

The Bill Rowan Medal is named in commemoration of the winner of the first Comrades Marathon – Bill Rowan in a time of 8:59, which is also the slowest winning time in the history of the race.

The honour of firing the 4.30pm cut-off gun for the bronze medal, which is awarded to runners who finish under 11 hours, has been given to one of the respected elders of the Comrades Marathon, Naidoo.

Naidoo is a former CMA board member who has completed 24 Comrades Marathons and has the best time of 6:07.

The final cut-off gun at 5.30pm for the Vic Clapham Medal, which is awarded to runners finishing under the 12 hour time limit, will be fired by the chairman of the Comrades Marathon Association, Macdonald Chitja. The chairman will be running his 17th Comrades Marathon and hopes to finish well in time to fulfil this duty.

The Vic Clapham Medal is named after the visionary founder of the Comrades Marathon in 1921

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