Running withthe spirit of ‘ubuntu’

2014-05-29 00:00

ON Sunday, June 1, 29 members of the Maritzburg City Athletics Club will be among the approximately 18 000 runners running the 89th edition of the Comrades Marathon from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

Twenty-six years ago (1986), the Maritzburg City Athletics Club was founded by Ray Khanyile, a well-known Pietermaritzburg teacher and sports development ambassador. He and others who had a shared vision started one of the first black clubs in the country. The club catered for runners in townships and rural areas, where marathon running was still a “foreign” sport due to apartheid, among other reasons.

The club was established with the objective of creating a forum for promoting athletics and road running in particular, and to nurture the talent of the youth in the townships and rural areas. It aimed to promote a healthy lifestyle and mass participation in sports through athletics, which was not a common sport in the townships, peri-urban and rural areas in Pietermaritzburg and Greater Edendale, where most of the club’s members come from. Affiliated to KwaZulu-Natal Athletics since its establishment in 1986, the club has, over the years, uncovered and nurtured many talented young athletes. These athletes have made their mark in road running in KZN and South Africa, especially in the Comrades Marathon. The late Eric Biyase, and current top runners such as Sandile Makhaye and Bongmusa Mthembu, are some of the names discovered by the club over the years. The club participates in road running, cross-country and track activities.

The majority of the club’s members run the Comrades Marathon every year, using the home-ground advantage of the race. In fact, it is almost every young and upcoming club member’s dream to one day run the Ultimate Human Race.

So it is that every year the Maritzburg City Athletics Club has a large number of its members running Comrades.

What makes Maritzburg City AC distinct from other running clubs is its values of ubuntu and our spirit of doing things for ourselves, and also helping one another and sharing the little that we have at our disposal. This is what has kept us going as a strong, stable and successful running club since 1986.

Maritzburg City Athletic Club has just over 100 members and is still going strong. The club has a mix of young people and veterans, men and women. Most of the members who have been with the club since its founding have completed over 20 Comrades Marathons. I will be running my 12th Comrades. I joined the club when I was very young, in 1989 while at Myezane Primary School in Imbali Township. The senior members of the club nurtured me and many others, and helped me become who I am today. The club helped me stay focused on my schooling and sport, and to stay away from things such as crime, drugs and other social ills. When I was studying at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus, running became an essential part of my lifestyle and kept me focused, fit and healthy. I have been running for 26 years now.

When I was at university, I was part of the university athletics club and its organising committee, and the Sports Union executive, which taught me valuable management skills. When I finished my studies, I worked in Cape Town at Parliament and later in Pretoria, where I worked for the national Department of Transport. While I was in Cape Town and Pretoria, I ran for professional clubs (Mr Price and Harmony Athletics Clubs), where I also learnt valuable administration and organisational skills. I returned home to Pietermaritzburg in 2008 to get involved in managing the club and to plough my skills and resources back into the club.

Marathon running is an expensive sport for the average person. The club assists needy runners who have a love and talent for running, but not the financial means. We believe money should not be a barrier to mass sports participation. Those of us who are privileged and fortunate to have professional employment and earn decent salaries, help those members who are in need by buying them running shoes, kit, licences, race entry fees and providing transport to races. While many clubs have come and gone, our principle of ubuntu has sustained our club. Our club is managed by a dedicated team of individuals with a spirit of volunteerism, a passion for running, good administration skills and a love of people. We welcome anyone who would like to join our club to get in touch with us, whether they want to walk or run socially or competitively.

Inquiries: Mlungisi Wosiyana at 082 565 0877 or E-mail: Wosiyana@

• TO create an organised forum for promoting road running and walking, and athletics in general, and to identify and nurture the talent of the youth and promote a healthy lifestyle through athletics. And to keep the youth off the streets, making them less vulnerable to criminal behaviour, drugs and other social ills. At Maritzburg City Athletics Club, we believe strongly that sport should play a major role in the development of young people.

• To promote gender equality and increase women participation and non-racialism, and contribute towards combating unfair discrimination in athletics.

• To work closely with other organisations such as the Msunduzi Municipality, uMungundlovu District Municipality, which is the home of the club, the KZN Department of Sports and Recreation, KZN Athletics, the Comrades Marathon Association and other organisations that share the same vision, which is to identify and develop talent within the uMgungundlovu boundaries and greater Pietermaritzburg, especially in historically disadvantaged communities.

• To organise coaching clinics, fun runs and community outreach programmes, to mobilise mass participation in athletics as an attractive, affordable and accessible sport, especially to young African women, who are under-represented.

• To develop, support and groom promising local athletes who will become champions to represent the city, the province and the country in athletics.

• To create a forum for social and fun runners across all age groups who want to enjoy taking part while increasing health and wellness, and developing an active lifestyle.

“Maritzburg City Athletics Club has just over 100 members to date and is still going strong. The club has a mix of young people and veterans, men and women. Most of the members who have been with the club since its founding have completed over 20 Comrades Marathons.”“We believe money should not be a barrier to mass sports participation. Those of us who are privileged and fortunate to have professional employment and earn decent salaries help those fellow club members who are in need.”

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