Runner dies in Madiba event

RIGHT: Narend Singh’s death came as a shock to friends and family members. The avid runner, pictured here at a race earlier this year, completed the Comrades Marathon 17 times. He was the vice-chairperson of the Save Orion Athletics Club.
RIGHT: Narend Singh’s death came as a shock to friends and family members. The avid runner, pictured here at a race earlier this year, completed the Comrades Marathon 17 times. He was the vice-chairperson of the Save Orion Athletics Club.

Distinguished 65-year-old Narend Singh, the former headmaster of Ridge View Primary School, died on Sunday after completing the 21 km race at the Mandela Day Marathon. 

Although Singh was retired, he continued to teach part-time at Raise­thorpe Secondary School.

His daughter, Dr Elisha Singh, said her father was an avid runner and had run the Comrades Marathon 17 times.

She added that on Sunday, her dad woke up at 4 am excited and happy about participating in the half marathon — and that by all accounts he completed the race in a good time, better in fact than he had hoped for.

“He collected his medal and was jogging to the spot where he was supposed to be fetched when he collapsed,” Elisha said.

Although Singh was successfully resuscitated at the finish area at the Mandela Capture Site, his condition deteriorated en route to hospital.

“We can only speculate that he had a massive heart attack,” Elisha said.

She described Singh as a devoted husband and father of three; and that there was nothing he wouldn’t do for his family.

He was also an avid soccer player.

“He never hesitated to help people. He believed in the potential of people. He helped them achieve their goals,” Elisha added.

Singh, who was well-respected and admired in the community, was the vice-chairperson of the Save Orion Athletics Club.

Ajith Deena, chairperson of the club, said that Singh had been running for the past 18 years and that his fitness belied his age.

Deena added that, as far as he was aware, Singh did not have any health problems.

While the Mandela Day Marathon — which was won by the Ethiopian husband-and-wife pair of Muhajr Haredin and Sofiya Shemsu in course record times — went off relatively smoothly, the searing temperatures did take their toll.

Some 2 828 runners finished the 42 km marathon, which started in Edendale, with 4 493 completing the half marathon and 4 615 making it to the finish line in the 10 km.

The organisers of the race, the uMgungundlovu­ District Municipality, received both praise and criticism on social media after the event.

Some runners said the T-shirts handed out to participants were of poor quality and looked “ugly”.

Tsue Rach Chinyoka took to the Mandela Day Marathon Facebook page to say he thought it was a “very well organised race” and Devin Pike, who has been doing the race for the past five years, said this year’s race “was by far the best organised out of all of them”.

However, Mbali Khoza disagreed, saying: “I was so disappointed with the lack of water supply.”

Nick Woudberg, while mostly happy with the race, was also concerned about the water supply.

“Only one refreshment table with water for the first 10 km of the half. Must have more bins for runners to dispose of the sachets.

“We need to be more responsible and run clean. Route looked terrible with all the litter,” he posted.

And Mahlengi Vayvo Ngcobo Satywa said: “Two stations, one after each, no water, was so disappointed only coke, thanks to Merrivale community for supplying us with water, God bless.”

Meanwhile, Silindile Ncalane made it plain that she didn’t like the T-shirts and the medals, saying: “Please, next [time] improve the quality of the T-shirts [and] medals.”

Brian Zuma, spokesperson of the uMgungundlovu­ District Municipality, admitted there were challenges in appointing a service provider to produce 21 000 T-shirts over a few days.

He apologised to participants for the late delivery of the shirts and their quality.

Zuma added that he was only aware of one table in Merrivale that ran short of water, but it was replenished quickly.

“Water stations were well resourced,” he said.

As for the medals, Zuma said that he does not know whose standards were being used to say the medals were of poor quality.

He admitted, however, that the two-day event has grown substantially and that people will need to be employed full-time to organise the race from next year.

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