24 June 2014
The 2014 Mandela Day Marathon, to be run from Pietermaritzburg’s Imbali Township, where Nelson Mandela made his final speech before his imprisonment for 27 years, to Howick, where he was arrested in 1962, takes place on 31 August.
The event has a R1-million purse, but for most of the thousands of competitors expected to participate in the marathon and its associated events, it will be more about an opportunity to honour the great man’s legacy.
Now in its third year, the marathon will celebrate the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, with runners tackling what race administrator Johan van Staden, of KwaZulu-Natal Athletics, has described as “one of the hardest marathon routes in the world”.
Around 10 000 athletes and 25 000 spectators are expected to converge on the province’s Midlands region for the race, while millions more will enjoy live television coverage on SABC2.
“The envisaged economic impact is R80-million, with benefits for the local rural community, hospitality industry, transport and service suppliers,” Yusuf Bamjee, the uMgungundlovu District Municipality’s Mayor, said at the official on-site launch on 12 June.
Also speaking at the launch, provincial minister for co-operative governance and traditional affairs Nomusa Dube-Ncube said the marathon would showcase KwaZulu-Natal to South Africa and the world.
“They will see our province as an example of rapid socio-economic development and increasing prosperity, and as a desirable destination for domestic and international tourism and investment,” she said.
The KwaZulu-Natal Athletics Association, official hosts of the event, said it was committed to delivering “a fully IAAF-compliant race, with strong emphasis on safety and security”.
The route starts at the Manayi Hall in Imbali, where Mandela, in his last speech as a free man, uttered his now-famous quote: “One person, one vote. Amandla awethu (the strength is ours).”
The race ends in Howick, at the official capture site where Mandela was stopped at a roadblock on 5 August 1962.
In addition to the 42.2km Mandela Day Marathon, there will be a 46664 race for invited celebrities, Members of Parliament, national and provincial sponsors and VIPs, a 10km race and, for the first time, a 21km race. The number 46664 is famous as Mandela’s prisoner number while he was incarcerated on Robben Island.
Bongumusa Mthembu, the 2014 winner of the Comrades Marathon, will join veteran long-distance running stars Bruce Fordyce and Willie Mtolo and a number of radio personalities who have been chosen as ambassadors for the race.
“It will be very humbling for me to run in this race for the first time, commemorating this great man. I am not out to win, but will be supporting others along the way,” Mthembu said.
On the day before the big races, Saturday, 30 August, there will be a 5km children’s race, 10km and 42km mountain bike races, and a 10km trail-running race.
The overall male and female marathon winners will each receive R50 000, while the first South African and first KwaZulu-Natalian home will also be rewarded.
The proceeds of the marathon will be used to bolster the many philanthropic projects initiated by Nelson Mandela in support of the less fortunate.