KwaZulu-Natal - It’s all systems go for the inaugural Mandela Day Marathon on Sunday, with 950 athletes set to run the 42.2km over a route that passes two places which featured in Nelson Mandela’s struggle.
Organised by the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, the race will start at 6.30am from the Manaye Hall in Imbali, Pietermaritzburg, where Mandela delivered his last speech before going underground in March 1961.
The route then runs through Edendale, climbs through Hilton, and ends at the site where Mandela was captured near Howick.
“The life of Nelson Mandela was a marathon, and this race has a history of freedom,” said uMgungundlovu mayor, councillor Yusuf Bhamjee.
“We are ready to host this event in honour of the father of our nation.”
Bhamjee said the district shared a special bond with Madiba.
“He last stepped on the soil of uMgungundlovu as a free man before he was captured on August 5, 1962. He was arrested and sent to Robben Island, where he spent a marathon 27 years behind bars.”
South African marathon running legend Bruce Fordyce, will be taking part on Sunday, and said it was a great honour to run in Mandela’s footsteps.
“It’s a great event and it will be a great thing to have done the first one,” he said. “Because of the nature of the route, I don’t think there will be a world record for speed, but there can certainly be a world record for spirit.”
Willie Mtolo, who became the first black South African to win the New York City Marathon in 1992, will also be taking part and said he aimed to finish in less than three hours. “I hope the young guys give me a chance,” he said.
Sibusiso Khuzwayo, municipal manager of the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, said a total of R1.8 million had been raised for the race, with R1.4m coming from the municipality and the Department of Sports and Recreation. - Daily News
*** The Mandela Day Marathon will serve as a qualifier for the Comrades and Two Oceans marathons. For more information, visit www.mandelamarathon.co.za.