Comrades to support underprivileged runners

2009-05-20 00:00

“FOR many years, runners who could not afford accommodation would sleep outside under the trees and on the pavements at the start the night before the race … They did not have enough money for accommodation, but would not miss running the Comrades Marathon.”

These were the words of marketing co-ordinator of the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) Thami Vilakazi who yesterday explained the reasons behind the organisation’s Underprivileged Runner Programme.

“This was obviously not acceptable to us, so we initiated a scheme whereby runners could apply to be housed and fed by us,” he added.

To date, some 800 runners are accommodated by the scheme.

“This year, we will accommodate runners the night before the race and the night of the race at the YMCA in Pietermaritzburg,” he said.

Not only do runners who are assisted by the programme have a place to stay and access to nourishment, they are also provided with essential transportation. “We will provide meals, transport to and from registration and transport to the start and from the finish, back to the YMCA.”

Last year, about 590 runners took up the offer.

The CMA said that this year, more runners are struggling with the high costs of transportation, which leaves underprivileged runners with very little to cover other costs.

The Gauteng, Free State and Mpumalanga Provincial Governments have each sponsored a 60-seater luxury coach to transport runners to the ca­pital.

“In future we hope to bring provin­ces like Limpopo, North West and the Eastern Cape on board, to actively support ... what we now refer to as the ‘Ultimate Human Race’.”

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