PHILLIP RALEHLAKA would have achieved his 10th Comrades medal this year. Picture: Supplied
PHILLIP RALEHLAKA would have achieved his 10th Comrades medal this year. Picture: Supplied

Comrades Marathon dreams derailed by Covid-19

By Rapula Moatshe Time of article published May 18, 2020

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Pretoria - The year 2020 was supposed to be a milestone in the life of Comrades Marathon runner Phillip Ralehlaka, who would have achieved his 10th medal to join a league of veteran runners, the Green Number Group.

But, Ralehlaka’s dream of making history for himself was put on hold last week after news broke that the ultra-marathon’s 95th edition had been cancelled due to Covid-19.

While he understands that the cancellation was done with good intentions to save lives, according to him, the decision will linger in his memory for the regrets he had about this year.

“Having completed nine marathons my greatest regret of not running it this year is that I won’t be getting my 10th medal which would automatically earn me a permanent number thus joining the Green Number Group, a league of veteran runners,” Ralehlaka said.

He reminisced about the fond memories he cherished about the marathon since 2010. “My greatest memory about Comrades was the fight I pulled up on the 2013 up-run with the worst weather conditions and temperatures at a staggering 31°C, with the wind blowing at 40km an hour.

“I pulled a hamstring at the 20km mark and had to conquer the remaining 67km limping in time to cross the finish line. I will miss the build-up to the race, the meet and greet at the Comrades Expo, and the starting point where all of us would be nervous and anxious."

Another athlete in the same boat is Bohlale Tsotetsi, a three-time Comrades finisher, who was looking forward to her fourth race.

To her, running the Comrades had been her childhood dream, which became a reality on May 29, 2016 when she started taking part in the marathon. “I was super excited and scared at the same time. I crossed the finish line 11 hours and 45 minutes later. I was so emotional, I was in shock that I had conquered The Ultimate Human Race. Fast forward 2020, I could have been lining up for my 4th Comrades,” she said.

She will use the rest of this year to reflect on all the Comrades she ran and “see how best I can improve my mental and physical strength to conquer Comrades 2021. All my Comrades marathons have been great journeys. I look forward to Comrades Marathon 2021 with great joy”, she said.

Kgabo Morifi, provincial secretary of the Young Communist League in Gauteng, intended to run his first Comrades. He said: “It was to be dedicated to many South Africans who suffer from lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and many other challenges that arise as a result of unhealthy eating, drinking and lack of physical activity.”

While he was heartbroken by the event's cancellation, he believed the decision was taken in the best interest of the nation. “Covid-19 is real and in our collective effort; we ought to be considerate of many lives that have been lost worldwide,” he said.

Morifi, a PhD candidate and research associate at the Tshwane University of Technology, said youth leaders had a responsibility “to be exemplary particularly to protect the masses of our people from these eminent health challenges”. The 89km Comrades Marathon had been scheduled for June 14.

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Pretoria News

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