Two new medals in honour of Comrades greats

2019-06-04 15:28
Comrades Marathon Association’s media and communications officer, Delaine Cools, holds up two of the new medals, the Robert Mtshali and the Isavel Roche-Kelly medals, that will be awarded to runners in this year’s race, which takes place on Sunday. PHOTO: Ian Carbutt

Comrades Marathon Association’s media and communications officer, Delaine Cools, holds up two of the new medals, the Robert Mtshali and the Isavel Roche-Kelly medals, that will be awarded to runners in this year’s race, which takes place on Sunday. PHOTO: Ian Carbutt

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The Comrades Marathon Association has introduced two new medals to commemorate some of their athletes who have made their mark on The Ultimate Human Race.

The Robert Mtshali and Isavel Roche-Kelly medals will join the ranks of the esteemed Comrades Marathon Gold, Wally Hayward, Silver, Bill Rowan, Bronze and Vic Clap­ham medals.

Cheryl Winn, CMA chairperson, said Roche-Kelly made such an impact on the world’s biggest and oldest ultra-marathon, that the only medal named after a woman is the one bearing her name.

Winn said this medal, which is equivalent to the Wally Hayward Medal but is specifically for females, will be awarded to those women finishing outside gold medals but before seven hours, 30 minutes. Just like the coveted Wally Hayward Medal, it is half silver and half gold.

In 1980, 20-year-old Roche-Kelly became the first woman to break the seven hours, 30 minutes barrier and win the Comrades Marathon in 7:18:00, well under the silver-medal cut-off of 7:30:00, in the process shattering the women’s record by more than an hour.

Earlier that year she also became only the third woman in Africa to complete a marathon in under three hours. She went on to win the 1981 Comrades up run in a time of 6:44:35 the following year. Sadly, she died in a cycling accident in her native Northern Ireland at the age of only 24, just three years later.

Athletes who complete Sunday’s Comrades Marathon in between nine hours and 10 hours will be awarded the newly introduced titanium-made Robert Mtshali Medal.

Mtshali was the first unofficial black runner in the 1935 Comrades Marathon, finishing his race in a time of 9 hours and 30 minutes. His efforts were not officially recorded as government and race rules of the time stipulated that only white males could compete in the Comrades Marathon.

In 2005, to mark the celebration of the 80th Comrades Marathon, the Comrades Marathon Association unveiled a bronze plaque at the entrance to the Comrades Marathon Museum to commemorate Mtshali’s courageous and ground-breaking 1935 run, in symbolic recognition of the many forgotten Comrades, both male and female, who so bravely completed the race unofficially prior to 1975 when participation in the race was officially opened to men and women of all races.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  comrades marathon
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