Meiklejohn to run Comrades for a cause

2010-05-07 00:00

FIFTEEN years ago Shaun Meiklejohn strode into Kingsmead Stadium as the Comrades Marathon winner, but on May 30 when he commences his 22nd run from under the Comrades memorial gantry at Pietermaritzburg City Hall, he will be hoping that his journey to Durban can be the first stride in the creation of winners among the youth of Sweetwaters.

Meiklejohn’s objective is to raise funds through sponsorship, pledges and general awareness to assist the iThemba project to start a running club in the township.

iThemba Trust was initiated by a group of businesspeople and members of the Hilton Baptist Church who wanted to assist and advance the education and mentoring of the school- aged children in the community. While this drive is already making a difference, it soon became apparent that there was a need for this to be balanced by the provision of alternative diversions and goals for the children outside school hours.

This prompted the approach to Meiklejohn, who enthusiastically embraced the project and soon went about recruiting the assistance of Conan Construction where he is an accountant. The Mkondeni-based company has committed to levelling an area of ground in order to develop a dirt track and off-road running facility.

“It’s such an opportunity to give something back,” said Meiklejohn. “I left competitive running seven years ago but it’s running that gave me so much. I want to see if I can give other people a similar chance.

“The day I met with Alistair McArthur of Mr Price my running changed. He asked me one simple question: ‘What would it mean to you if I sponsored you?’ I told him I felt I could win Comrades and that changed everything. Through this project I hope to change the life of some of the talented youth in Sweetwaters, and believe me, there are children there who are brimful with talent.”

Victory in the 1995 race only came after a Titanic battle against Charl Mattheus in the final stages of the down run, with the Hilton- based athlete breaking the tape in five hours 34 minutes and two seconds, 59 seconds ahead of Mattheus.

“My time is not important this year but I would like a safe silver,” said the 48-year-old, who this year ran a 2:57 Umgeni Marathon and took only 3: 43 for the 52 km Bergville to Ladysmith. Meiklejohn has 10 gold medals and 11 silvers behind his name.

Through the new Mashaka Club, the Mr Price runner intends to provide training programmes, create facilities and create the sustainability that will allow the employment of full- time administrative and coaching staff in addition to the necessary incentives and rewards for the athletes who achieve in the sport.

It’s a tall order at the best of times, and relies on the support of others, but it’s one that Meiklejohn knows will only be achieved in the same fashion that he won the 1995 race — one step at a time.

Donations and pledges can be made to the Mashaka Running Club project through www.Run4Africa.

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