Donald Mathipa is an ordinary man with extraordinary ideas. Six years ago, the 39-year-old converted a social running event into an elite competition that has now become an annual festival in his township of Tembisa in Ekurhuleni.
That Mathipa tried his hand at running and never really made it big in athletics didn’t deter him from founding the Tembisa Street Mile.
“Most of my friends and colleagues are runners and we started off with lunch-time running,” recalled Mathipa, who arrived in Gauteng from Bochum in Limpopo in 2000.
“I have always had the thought of establishing an elite competition in our township and that’s how the Tembisa Street Mile was born.
“We started off using leftover materials from a race that was organised by a company I used to
“We had in our programme a mile race [1.6km] plus a 10km fun run for the masses.
“The only way to grab the attention of people was to involve elite runners,” added Mathipa, whose journey in the sport saw him start out as a club trainer and later go on to serve in the Central Gauteng Athletics road running commission.
“That’s where I learnt the technicalities of athletics,” he said.
Despite not having a title sponsor, Mathipa has always counted on the support of elite middle-distance runners such as Elroy Gelant, Gladwin Mzazi and Namakoe Nkhasi from Lesotho as main attractions for his event.
The challenge for Mathipa, who is a part-time commentator at local races, is how to sustain the event that thrives without any significant sponsorship.
“This year, we had to reduce the prize money amounts because of the loss of our main sponsor,” he lamented.
The total prize money for this year’s race is R43 000, sponsored by Threshhold SA, a company specialising in nutritional supplements.
The race is scheduled for October 28.
The winners of the elite mile and the 10km will take home R2 000 each.
“With enough support, we will be able to assist development structures,” said Mathipa, who holds a degree in communication science.
“When you look at the success of prominent races like the Spar Women’s Challenge, the Totalsports [Women’s Race] or the FNB CityRun, it is not necessarily about the organisation, but its ability to attract elite runners.
“So far, we have on board the City of Ekurhuleni sports and recreation division, Spar North Rand, M&M Marketing, Leso Estate, Garbie, aQuellé and Futurelife.
“Our wish is to get a corporate company to co-brand the event because the question we need to answer is how we can sustain an event that is still able to attract elite runners despite limited resources.”
. Find race entry details at tembisamile.co.za