Marathon runners will soon have the chance to follow in Nelson Mandela’s famous footsteps in a 42.2km race starting from an iconic hall and ending at the struggle hero’s capture site near Howick.
The inaugural Mandela Day Marathon will take place on August 26, starting from the Manaye Hall in Imbali, Pietermaritzburg, where Mandela delivered his last speech before going underground in March 1961.
Participants will then run through Edendale, climb through Hilton, and end at the site where Mandela was captured near Howick.
Sibusiso Khuzwayo, municipal manager of the uMgungundlovu district municipality, said that, with the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation’s help, about R1.5 million had been raised to make the Mandela Day Marathon possible.
uMgungundlovu mayor Yusuf Bhamjee said the district shared a special bond with Madiba because he had delivered his last speech at the Manaye Hall on March 26, 1961 before going underground.
“He last stepped on the soil of uMgungundlovu as a free man before he was captured on August 5, 1962,” said Bhamjee. “He was arrested and sent to Robben Island, where he spent a marathon 27 years behind bars.”
Bhamjee said the Mandela Day Marathon was in honour of Mandela’s unbroken spirit, his fight for a noble cause, and sacrifice of his own freedom in order to free all South Africans.
“The marathon aims to attract people from all over the world to visit the Madiba capture site, to promote social cohesion and to generate economic opportunities for the less fortunate,” he said.
The event was initially meant to take place on July 8 but was recently postponed to August for symbolic reasons.
“August 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Mandela’s arrest outside Howick,” said Bhamjee.
“This marathon reflects the gruelling marathon that he had to run to lay the foundation for the democratic South Africa we enjoy. We want to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit and the discipline of spending 27 years in prison,” he said.
The president of the KwaZulu-Natal Athletics Federation, Sello Mokoena, said the marathon was a special event to honour a special person.
“Sometimes we take Madiba for granted. But we are privileged to be in the same space and time as him, while our grandchildren will only be able to read about him,” he said.
The marathon has been organised by the uMgungundlovu district municipality and the KZN Athletics Association, and aims to spread the message of peace, hope and equality for all.
Entry forms for the marathon open on July 18, Mandela’s 94th birthday, and close 27 days later, on August 14 – each day representing each year he spent in prison.
The Mandela Day Marathon will be a qualifier for the Comrades and Two Oceans marathons. All runners must be at least 20 years old and belong to an athletics club.
For those who want to honour Mandela, but don’t think they can complete 42.2km, there will also be a 10km race, open to people of all ages.