First it was cancelled, then it was on again… this has been the yo-yo experience for the running community today as news broke about the Soweto Marathon. As a long-term media partner to the race, Modern Athlete got in touch with the ‘right’ people to get to the bottom of what is really going on.
On Wednesday morning, we woke to the news that the 2023 Soweto Marathon had been cancelled due to an ongoing dispute regarding the broadcast rights for the race, and the funding received for these rights. Thankfully, a few hours later news broke that the 28th edition of the event known as the People’s Race will go ahead as scheduled on Sunday 5 November.
The original media release announcing the cancellation of the race was apparently issued on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, and quoted Soweto Marathon Trust (SMT) Chairman Sello Khunou directly, so it appeared to have been issued by the SMT. This media release laid the blame for the cancellation squarely at the feet of Athletics South Africa (ASA) and Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA).
However, according to a statement released today by provincial athletics body, Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA), Khunou as well as General Secretary Ishe Sadiki and Board Member Pamela Tainton had already been suspended by the provincial federation the previous week, for bringing the sport into disrepute, and they each face a potential two-year suspension from all athletics activities, subject to a disciplinary and appeal process. The original press release therefore appears to have been released following their suspension.
Furthermore, on Sunday 18 June, CGA met with 15 of the 17 Soweto athletics clubs that make up the SMT, to ensure that the race will be hosted successfully following the suspension of the above Trust members. According to CGA, the clubs welcomed the suspension of the three members and indicated to CGA that the race must take place in 2023. Note: The Soweto athletics clubs are the beneficiaries of the Soweto Marathon, and both the event and these Soweto clubs are affiliated to CGA, and through the provincial federation, also to Athletics South Africa (ASA).
Getting Back on Track
When asked about the unfortunate turn of events, newly elected SMT Board Member Thokozani Mazibuko said, “This is not what we as the Soweto Marathon Trust wanted or expected. Our focus is to find a solution to the problem and get the 2023 People’s Race on track. The sudden announcement of cancellation from disgruntled members created panic and was completely unnecessary.”
He added that the Trust, the Board, and the relevant athletics bodies are all committed to ensuring the race happens, saying, “Our message to the runners planning on tackling the Soweto Marathon in November is that our 2023 edition is happening, and we can’t wait to welcome you to the streets of Soweto.”
We also spoke to long-standing Race Director, Danny Blumberg, and he assured us that while the opening of entries has been delayed due to these internal issues, this is in no way holding up the organisation of the 2023 edition of the race. “My team is working hard in the background to ensure that when we are able to open entries, everything will be on track to make sure that this edition of the People’s Race is as good as runners expect it to be,” he said.
The Soweto Marathon has been a much-loved fixture on the running calendar for nearly three decades, and we look forward to bringing you all the news, including the opening date for entries, expected to be announced soon!