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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

2017 COMRADES MARATHON ENTRY UPDATE

In mid-October, halfway through the 2017 Comrades Marathon entry process, the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) announced that more than half the 20,000 available entries had been taken up. CMA Race Director, Rowyn James confirmed that the entry process has proceeded smoothly, with runners from around the world showing a heightened interest in the world’s most gruelling ultra-marathon. “At the time of writing, we have captured nearly 11,500 successful entries so far, which equates to 56% of our entry quota.”

The actual entry breakdown at this point looks as follows:

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•   South African entrants: 10,447

•   Rest of Africa entrants: 144

•   International entrants: 763

As part of the CMA’s Runners First Initiative, a Comrades club manual has been developed, which will assist running clubs to make better use of the Comrades entry system. In light of this commitment to improving its relationship with running clubs across the country, the CMA hosted an interactive club session on 22 October, to assist club managers to update details and qualifying times of runners who do not have the facilities to do so. Club managers also now have the ability to verify which club the athlete belongs to as well as his/her qualifying details, and all athletes who are flagged by club managers will be contacted by the CMA’s in-house entries team.

The three-month entry window will close on 30 November 2016, or as soon as the entry cap of 20,000 has been reached, and James calls on runners to act quickly and avoid disappointment. “With less than two months to go till the 2017 Comrades entry process closes, we would like to urge runners who have not yet entered to do so as soon as possible.”

For details on how to enter and other information, please visit www.comrades.com.

MEET VELANI SOSIBO

THE FACE OF THE #COMRADES2017 CAMPAIGN

“My name is Velani Sosibo. Most of my friends know me by my nickname Marvy. I was born in a dusty deep rural area in Nkwezela location in Bulwer, outside Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal. I have three siblings – two sisters and one brother – and I have three children, Nomonde, aged 17, Athandwa, aged 12, and Sisa, aged 8. I am currently employed as an administrative clerk by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health at Gwala Clinic.

I love running. I started this joyous pastime in 2014. Since then, running has been the most relaxing thing for me. My best marathon time is 2:43. I have completed the Comrades Marathon twice. My first Comrades was in 2015 and my second was in 2016, and my best Comrades time is 6:28. I am very humbled and motivated to be the face of the 2017 Comrades Marathon. It is an amazing feeling and personally, the best thing that has ever happened to me. #Zinikele – It takes all of you!”

COMRADES BRAAI DAY

The CMA hosted an exciting Heritage Day social at Comrades House on 24 September. Members of the Association converged in droves to partake in the Proudly South African festivities, while running celebrity Willie Mtolo wowed the crowd with his cheerful Comrades experiences and running stories of days gone by. Lucky draw prizes and a host of other goodies were up for grabs as well during this amazingly fun day.

OFFICIAL OPENING OF COMRADES MARATHON MUSEUM

Having been first opened to the public 28 years ago, the newly revamped and refurbished world famous Comrades Marathon Museum saw its official reopening on Friday 30 September. Speaking at the opening, CMA Chairperson, Macdonald Chitja said, “Comrades Marathon House was built in the early 1900’s. The exact date is lost to us, due to a fire in the Municipal Archives that occurred in the 1930’s.”

“The building was purchased by the Comrades Marathon Association in 1985 with the museum being originally opened to the public on 16 March 1988. The building was later declared as a Heritage Site in the late 1990’s.” Thousands of Comrades enthusiasts and visitors from around the world have since paid homage to the greatness of the Comrades Marathon via its Museum, which stores archived material and keepsakes from the race.

CMA Heritage & Traditions Sub-Committee Head, Jeff Minnaar said, “Ten months of restoration on the building, combined with meticulous research and months of installation has resulted in a modern museum environment that still holds true to the essence of the Comrades Marathon. The CMA would like to thank members of the public for their generous donations of Comrades artefacts and memorabilia from days gone by. These priceless contributions have allowed us to create new and informative displays.”

The rich Comrades history, dating back to 1921, is beautifully depicted with never before seen images and artefacts. The race room boasts a scale route model that tracks all the major hills, landmarks and points of interest along the iconic Comrades route. An interactive treadmill allows you to experience the level of competency needed to earn the spectrum of medals that the CMA awards its finishers.

The Green Number Club members will get to enjoy the new social space dedicated to them and the general public will now be able to enter the boardroom space, giving them insight into the scope of volunteerism at the Comrades Marathon Association. The museum will also host a new ‘Comrades Shop’ where memorabilia, books and Amabeadibeadi charity products can be purchased. Entry to the museum is free.

CMA General Manager, Chris Fisher said, “It is an absolute pleasure for the CMA to welcome everybody to our grand museum re-opening. The various exhibitions contain valuable information for Comrades runners, historians and everyday people alike. Visitors to the museum will see that it takes over 6000 volunteers to make the Comrades dream a reality every year.”

For more details, kindly email CMA Museum Curator Roxanne Thomas at roxanne@comrades.com.

FIRST OFFICIAL COMRADES WOMEN’S

WINNER ATTENDS MUSEUM OPENING

The CMA was honoured to have 1975 Comrades Women’s Winner, Betty Cavanagh (85) at the reopening of the Museum on 30 September. The 1975 edition of the Comrades Marathon was notable as the first year that both females and people of all races were allowed to officially participate in the race, and Betty, who resides in Pietermaritzburg, is recognised as the first official female winner of the Comrades Marathon. She humble former winner truly delighted the audience with her attendance, and grabbed more hearts as she donated her famous Comrades Blazer to the Museum.

CMA Heritage & Traditions Sub-Committee Head, Jeff Minnaar, who received the Blazer from Cavanagh, said, “This is a special moment in Comrades history. This Comrades keepsake, having belonged to the very first official women’s winner of the Comrades Marathon, will now occupy a very special place in our Museum. We are indebted to Mrs Cavanagh for the courage and determination that she displayed in the 1975 Comrades Marathon, going on to win the women’s race and continuing to be a role model to female runners everywhere, and for being an inspirational ambassador for The Ultimate Human Race.”

CMA Chairperson, Macdonald Chitja said, “We were deeply honoured to have Mrs Cavanagh with us at the official opening of our Comrades Museum. She is an incredibly warm and humble person who has captured many hearts since winning the Comrades women’s race four decades ago.” The proud Green Number holder has ten Comrades medals under her belt, having run her first unofficial Comrades in 1970. All of her Comrades races prior to 1975 have since been verified and recognised by the CMA retrospectively.

10th GREATER EDENDALE RACE – COME RUN WITH US!

The CMA has called on runners to join in the 10th running of the popular annual Greater Edendale Race, which takes place on Sunday 13 November 2016. The CMA will once again host the race at the FNB Wadley Stadium in Georgetown, Edendale, in Pietermaritzburg, as part of its social responsibility programme. Safety and security is overseen by the SAPS and local traffic police, as well as sixty marshals who will be on duty on the day.

Over the years, the race has attracted nearly 2000 participants on an annual basis, and it is also a major attraction for local schools, with grand prizes for those schools with the most number of finishers. Prize money totalling more than R21,000 is up for grabs, including a generous first prize of R3000 for the first man and first woman over the finish line respectively. The first three male and female walkers will also be rewarded. Additionally, every finisher will take home a medal in addition to all 10km runners receiving an Edendale 10km Race T-shirt.

Pre-entries will be taken at Comrades Marathon House (weekdays between 8am and 4:30pm), and the local race organising committee will be at the FNB Wadley Stadium taking entries on Saturday 12 November from 11am to 2pm. Registration will also be open on the day of the race from 5am to 7am. The entry fee for the 10km race is R40 and participants must be at least 14 years old. Temporary licenses will be available at Registration at a cost of R10 for those runners who are not licensed members of running clubs. Anyone over nine years old may enter the 5km Fun Run, which forms part of the world-renowned AIMS Children’s Series Race. The entry fee is R20, but free for school children.

GET YOUR 2017 TRAINING PROGRAMME

The official Comrades Marathon Coach, Lindsey Parry, has devised a comprehensive training programme to get you to the start line of the 2017 Ultimate Human Race and help you achieve your coveted Comrades medal. You can find the programmes and training tips at www.comrades.com.

MY COMRADES STORY

BY CRAIG DENNILL

“I have always had a passion for the Comrades Marathon and the history of this great event. Over the last 30 years I have accumulated a sizable amount of interesting items and memorabilia from many strange places. On one such occasion some years back, I found myself digging in an auction lot of old clothing. Amongst the clothing I noticed a sleeve of what I immediately recognized as the original Comrades Blazer.

I waited for hours to elapse before I could bid on the rack of clothing at the auction, hoping that nobody else had seen the jacket amongst the other apparel. Fortunately, nobody had and for a small fortune of 10 Rand, I became the new proud owner of a Comrades Blazer. Not only was it in good original condition, but it also had the original narrow tie in one of the pockets. Today, my famous find is proudly displayed amongst my many other Comrades treasures and it is always a thrill to wear it when the opportunity presents itself.”

SHARE YOUR COMRADES STORY

Every Comrades Marathon runner has a story to tell, their ultimate tale of courage, perseverance and endurance. The CMA is calling on ardent Comrades runners to inspire the nation to take up the challenge of running the world’s most gruelling 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.

CSI NEWS UPDATE

A STARFISH STORY TO INSPIRE

The Comrades Marathon makes a positive difference to the lives of the less fortunate by supporting six official Comrades Charities, and runners are invited to support these charities through the Amabeadibeadi and Race4Charity initiatives. One of those six charities is the Starfish Foundation, which with Leseding Caregivers, is helping this youngster from the KwaZulu-Natal midlands…

“I am 15 years old and live on a farm with both parents and my elder brother. My parents are both farm workers and they never dream of leaving the farm. I once asked them what will happen to me when I finish school. My dad says that I will also be a farm worker. It breaks my heart to know that my life will end on the farm.

Both my parents are alcoholics and there is never a passing day without them drinking. It annoys me so much to have such a family, and as for my brother, he is a drug addict and couldn’t give a care in the world. I dropped out of school for about a year, but because of the love from strangers, I realised that there is more to life than being a child from the farms.

Leseding Caregivers found me in the midst of misery. I had given up altogether, realizing that my parents could not care about me or the things I wanted to achieve in life. Ever since I become a part of Leseding Caregivers, I have seen life differently. Coming from the farm does not mean that you should end up being a farm worker. That’s what I learned from one of the caregivers at Leseding.

I am very proud to say that I am a beneficiary of Leseding Caregivers. I am thankful for all that I have received from them – food parcels, school materials, and other material support. Thank you so much Leseding and Starfish for your support, I have now gained self-confidence and believe that my life won’t end as a farm worker. I now have hope.”

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