South African marathon king Zithulele Sinqe (second from right).

The South African athletics fraternity will bid farewell to former road running champion Zithulele Sinqe at a memorial service in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Sinqe, 48, died in a motor vehicle accident on December 22 in Balfour, where he worked after forming a development athletics club in the area.

A coach and television commentator in recent years, Sinqe was crowned SA marathon champion in 1986 with what was then the fifth fastest time in history.

He clocked 2:08.04 in Port Elizabeth to hold off Willie Mtolo, a future New York marathon champion, by 11 seconds.

The following year Matthews Temane pipped Sinqe on the line to win the SA half-marathon title, with both runners crossing the line in 1:00.11 Ä a world best time for the distance which stood for 10 years.

In the twilight of his career, Sinqe turned his focus towards ultra-marathon races, winning the 56km Two Oceans marathon in 1996

and 1997.

“Collectively we have lost a friend, brother, legend and an important member of our athletics fraternity,” said Central Gauteng Athletics general manager Mandla Radebe.

“We feel empty inside because of the love we had for our departed colleague in athletics.

“His dedication and contribution to the development of athletics in the country will always be remembered.”

A memorial service for Sinqe will be held at the Recreational Centre in Braamfontein at 2pm on Thursday.

His funeral will be held in eMaqhinebeni, Sinqe's home town in the Eastern Cape, on Saturday. - Sapa