Comrades Marathon veteran dies

2016-11-02 06:01
PHOTO: supplied Simon Mkhize.

PHOTO: supplied Simon Mkhize.

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THE first black runner to obtain his Comrades Green Number for finishing 10 Comrades, and who was going on to achieve double green number status, has died.

Howick-born Simon Mkhize (74), has been described as a keen sportsman, who inspired many athletes to get into running and especially take on the Comrades Marathon, and other sporting codes.

Of his 20 Comrades finishes, Mkhize amassed 12 bronze and eight silver medals. His best time of 6:40 was achieved in the 1971 Comrades.

Due to the Comrades Marathon being officially opened up to runners of all races and genders only in 1975, Simon’s Comrades finishes before that year were all retrospectively awarded to him.

One of nine children, Simon started running when he was 28. After his first race, he realised he enjoyed running so much he couldn’t stop and began entering and winning races, and so began his epic athletic career.

According to a statement issued by the Comrades Marathon Association’s archived news material, the year Simon decided to take on the Comrades Marathon, spectators on the side of the road were pleased to see him and other black athletes running the race and cheered him on.

Simon also discovered he liked other sports and got into canoeing. He was the first black person to take part in the Duzi Canoe Marathon. However, Simon didn’t stop there, he also tried mountain climbing as well as rafting, which became one of his favourite pastimes.

CMA chairperson Macdonald Chitja said Simon was a pioneer and a leader, who inspired many young people to take up sport.

“He was passionate about sport and a very gifted sportsman. He pioneered the way for black participants in the Duzi Canoe Marathon.

“Even in his later years he always had time to give advice to ordinary runners on how they could improve their running. He will be missed.”

CMA vice-chairperson Cheryl Winn said although she did not personally know Simon, her husband Mick remembers him as an accomplished athlete and upstanding citizen, entrepreneur, role model and trailblazer for future Comrades Marathon runners.

“He was one of the first athletes to be awarded medals retrospectively for having completed the Comrades Marathon unofficially prior to 1975 and which were substantiated as official.”

CMA International Brand Ambassador for Scotland, Don Mellor reflected on the humble and talented sportsman that Simon was.

“I remember Simon as a ‘quietly spoken man’, who had an enormous running talent. It’s no wonder he went on to achieve such an amazing Comrades record. RIP Simon Mkhize.”

- Supplied.

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