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25 Dec, 2016

Comrades Spirit Burning Strong

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Check out all the latest news and important info from the world’s biggest, oldest and most famous ultra, the Comrades Marathon.– BY DELAINE COOLS & NONKULULEKO MDLALOSE

2016 OLD MUTUAL SPIRIT OF COMRADES AWARDS GALA

The annual Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades Awards gala took place in Durban on Saturday 15 October, as the Comrades Marathon Association  (CMA) honoured some amazing individuals. Hosted by the CMA in conjunction with major sponsor Old Mutual, these awards celebrate three remarkable individuals every year for their selflessness, dedication, perseverance and ubuntu, combined with their love for The Ultimate Human Race.

The awardees are nominated by CMA members, Comrades Marathon runners and the general public, and are subject to the discretion of the CMA Board. The awards criteria place special emphasis on Comrades Marathon winners, legends, volunteers and otherwise ordinary heroes and heroines, who through individual acts of service, sacrifice, courage or perseverance, either in a single race or over a period of time, exhibit the noble qualities associated with the race.

CMA Chairperson, Macdonald Chitja, said, “We are delighted to honour these outstanding individuals at our flagship awards gala. Each of them has a unique story of camaraderie and goodwill that inspires us all to be the best we can be. It is incredibly motivating and we applaud them all.”

The prestigious awards gala has been a defining feature of the CMA since 1991, and the three Spirit of Comrades recipients are presented with a one-ounce, 24-carat gold medallion, courtesy of Old Mutual, while several other awards also form part of the gala evening.

FIRST RECIPIENT: AMIT SHETH

Being passionate about the Comrades Marathon, Amit has successfully completed the Ultimate Human Race five times. He was the first Indian national to run the Comrades in 2009, and in that same year was appointed the Comrades International Brand Ambassador for the Indian subcontinent, a role which he has fulfilled with enthusiasm and pride.

Over the years, Amit has inspired, mentored and encouraged hundreds of people to spread the word of the world’s greatest footrace. His book, Dare to Run, which was published in 2010, became a bestseller in India and has helped to motivate people from all walks of life to get into running, and more specifically, to come and take up the Comrades challenge. To this end, nearly 100 runners from India entered the 2016 Comrades Marathon, up from that solitary entry in 2009!

Despite his day job as the CEO of a successful engineering company in India, Amit makes the time to blog about his running experiences and shares his running hints, tips and general motivation to runners all over the Indian subcontinent and across the world. He is a motivational speaker of note and also an amazing fundraiser when it comes to charitable organisations. To date, Amit has donated over two and a half million Rand for the cancer treatment of underprivileged children at the Tata Memorial Hospital – the largest cancer hospital in Asia. With his quiet, unassuming nature and huge heart, Amit most certainly epitomises the true spirit of the Comrades Marathon.

SECOND RECIPIENT: RUPIN MEHTA

With a staggering number of Spirit of Comrades Award nominations coming in for Rupin, this amazing soul proved that a good deed seldom goes unnoticed, as television viewers and social media enthusiasts latched onto the images of an exhausted Rupin getting down on his knees in this year’s race to assist a fatigued runner.

Sacrificing his own Comrades medal to ensure that other runners achieved theirs was more important to him than securing a fifth consecutive Comrades finish. Rupin first came to the assistance of Johan Kotze, who was struggling to continue with his race at 45th Cutting in Sherwood. With Rupin’s help and a bit of massage and motivation, Johan managed to complete his race and earn his medal within the 12-hour cut-off time.

Then at the finish, Rupin came across another athlete, Samantha Douglas, who was battling with major cramps. With spectators watching helplessly, he tried in vain to help her, but just did not have the strength to get her up and to the finish line in time, and both Rupin and Samantha ended up failing to finish the 2016 Comrades Marathon by a mere 21 seconds. Rupin’s actions on Comrades race day truly exemplified the indomitable Spirit of the Comrades Marathon and that saw him chosen as the second worthy Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades recipient.

THIRD RECIPIENT: DR SHOYAB WADEE

Comrades race day proved to be a beautiful day to save a life for our third Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades awardee, Dr Shoyab Wadee. This amazing individual has shown all of us that it is indeed more precious to save a life than to achieve a medal.

Dr Wadee was well on his way to enjoying his third Comrades Marathon finish when he came across a collapsed Willem Stolp at Botha’s Hill. Willem was lying on his side, vomiting profusely, and was clearly unwell. It was also obvious that his condition was fast deteriorating when the good doctor rushed to his aid. Willem’s state of health was deemed to be very serious, with his blood pressure and heart rate dropping rapidly. All this time, the kind-hearted doctor was fully aware that his own finishing time was being compromised, but thankfully this did not deter him from lending a hand and potentially saving the life of the Tzaneen Athletics Club member.

Dr Wadee rendered emergency medical intervention and remained at the side of the semi-conscious Willem for well over an hour. By the time the paramedics arrived on the scene, Willem was stabilised, thanks to the doctor’s efforts… but Dr Wadee then realised that with the amount of time that had elapsed whilst he was assisting Willem, he would be unable to complete his third Comrades Marathon in the remaining time, so he decided to call it a day.

Tzaneen Athletic Club Chairperson, Paul Zaayman said, “Dr Wadee displayed a sense of selflessness that is admirable. To think that he sacrificed his own medal to help a total stranger – that is truly what the Comrades is all about!”

JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR: KHANYISO TSHWAKU

Awarded to the journalist who has written the most articles and garnered the highest amount of AVE (advertising value equivalency) for the Comrades Brand, this year’s Comrades Journalist of the Year is a reporter from The Times Media Group. This popular sports reporter tells us that the Comrades Marathon means a lot to him: “I always wondered why people took the time to run the 89km route over 12 hours, when they could drive it in only an hour. Then I realised, by covering the event, that there’s more to the Comrades Marathon than just getting to the finish. It is an examination of the mind, body and soul that builds character and lifelong friendships.”

TOP CHARITY FUNDRAISER OF THE YEAR: CAREL NOLTE

The CMA is exceedingly proud and passionate about the Comrades Charity Drive which benefits six officially recognised charities. To this end, the CMA presents its Comrades Marathon Top Fundraiser Award to the person who has raised the most funds for the Comrades Charities, and the winner of this prized accolade is once again Carel Nolte, who raised R170,000 this year.

Carel tells us that he loves everything about the race: “I have a deep respect for every person who takes part in the Comrades. This race demonstrates for me the very best of humanity and fills me with immense pride at being a South African. From the obvious ‘wow’ moments, like singing our National Anthem at the start and crossing the finishing line, to the more unexpected special moments, the Comrades creates special memories, and raising money for charity for thousands of people whilst having immense fun is a great gift.”

2016 WINNERS BLAZERS: DAVID GATEBE & CHARNE BOSMAN

The glitzy evening also saw the awarding of the Comrades Marathon Winners’ Blazers to the proudly South African 2016 winners David Gatebe and Charne Bosman. David was especially honoured for breaking the previously recorded best down-run time by a whopping two minutes and 22 seconds. Charne ran the race of her life and few will ever forget the final kilometres of the 2016 women’s race.

CMA CERTIFICATES OF APPRECIATION: SGB & INTERFLORA

The CMA is always mindful of the effort of individuals and organisations who have contributed in a significant way to the Comrades Marathon Association over the years. Due recognition and appreciation are accorded to two organisations for their outstanding service, or for going beyond the call of duty in adding value to the Comrades Marathon, via the CMA’s Certificate of Appreciation. These were presented to SGB and Interflora for 30 and 20 years of service respectively to the CMA.

CMA LIFE MEMBERSHIP AWARD: BRIAN SWART

This award is conferred upon members who have rendered outstanding meritorious service to the race. Brian Swart has served the CMA in various capacities for 38 years, including his contributions to the Route-marking, Publications, Finish Procedure and Green Number Club portfolios, and most recently, convening the International Bus Tours.

GRAND MERIT FOR EXEMPLARY SERVICE AWARD: MICK WINN

Special acknowledgement was bestowed on a special man in the Comrades Marathon world as Mick was honoured with a distinctive tribute for his 50 years of service to the Association. Furthermore, the CMA announced that it will rename the Comrades Hall at Comrades House as the ‘Mick Winn Hall of Honour’ in respect of him being the founding Chairperson of the Comrades Marathon Association and for his immense contribution to the CMA over half a century.

My Comrades Story

The Ultimate Human Race

By Tegan Edwards

So it all started when I was a little girl. I would stand and wait for my dad at the Comrades finish and congratulate him when he crossed the finish line. I always said that one day I would finish the Comrades just like my dad, but at that age I had no idea the amount of training, hard work and dedication it would take.

I was an athletic child and ended up making a career out of professional tennis. When I retired, I started coaching tennis, but I really missed competition and having a goal, so I started doing obstacle races. This is where I discovered my love for running. I started running half marathons and I was doing very well, but in South African road running every race is really just training for Comrades, and I started thinking about the possibility of running the Comrades. It still seemed like an impossible goal, but having something to strive for is what keeps us going, so I entered, and did a very brave but crazy thing… I put my goals on social media. There was no backing out now!

Now I had to get training. Thankfully I already had a good fitness base, and having a dream, making small achievable goals and surrounding myself with people that had similar goals kept me motivated. The training was gruelling, but there is nothing like it. When you run it is just you and the road. You are alone with your thoughts, and it really is quite therapeutic.

There were a lot of times I didn’t want to train, but I am glad I pushed myself, and finally, after months of hard work, I completed my first Comrades. There is no way to describe the feeling of crossing that finish line. Everything I had done paid off. I achieved a childhood dream, and learnt that nothing is impossible if you are willing to do what it takes to get there. And yes, I will be running Comrades again next year!

Watch Tegan’s first Comrades at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hm_erINI3Q4.

SHARE YOUR COMRADES STORY

Every Comrades Marathon runner has their ultimate tale of courage, perseverance and endurance. The CMA is calling on you to inspire the nation to take up the challenge of running the world’s greatest footrace, by sending us your Comrades Story in 300 words or less, and stand the chance to win a Comrades hamper. Please e-mail your story to delaine@comrades.com.

Rest in Peace:

Simon Mkhize

The Comrades Marathon Association was saddened by the news of the passing of Simon Mkhize on 14 October. The 74-year-old was the first Black runner to obtain his Comrades Green Number for running the Comrades Marathon 10 times, and went on to achieve Double Green Number status. Simon was born on 4 March 1942 near Howick, one of nine children, and was always a keen sportsman who inspired many athletes to get into various sports, especially running and taking on the Comrades Marathon challenge.

He started running when he was 28 years old and soon began winning races, starting an epic athletic career that saw him run his first Comrades in 1970. In his 20 successful Comrades finishes, Simon amassed eight Silver and 12 Bronze medals, with his best time of 6:40 achieved in 1971. However, due to the Comrades Marathon only being officially opened to runners of all races and genders in 1975, Simon’s first five Comrades finishes from 1970 to 1974 were all retrospectively awarded to him. Simon also got into canoeing and he was the first Black person to take part in the Dusi Canoe Marathon. He also tried mountain-climbing as well as rafting.

CMA Chairperson Macdonald Chitja says, “Simon was a gifted sportsman and inspired many young people to take up sport. He pioneered the way for Black participants in the Comrades Marathon and the Dusi Canoe Marathon. Even in his later years he always had time to give advice to ordinary runners on how they could improve their running. He will be missed.”

CMA Board Member, Terence Hoskins says, “I had the opportunity of getting to know Simon very well. He always exhibited the noble qualities of a gentleman, in sport as in life. He was a talented and disciplined individual who inspired many athletes to greatness. He will be greatly missed.” MA Green Number Convener, Eileen Hall adds, “I had huge respect for Simon as I knew him from when he ran with my Dad, Ray Karg. He was a very humble, respectful and pleasant runner.” And former CMA Chairperson, Barry Varty says, “It is sad to learn that Simon has crossed the finish line for the last time. We don’t say goodbye, we say, ‘Carry on Simon, we’ll catch you later’.”