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SA to attempt ultra-marathon world-record attempt in bid to assist small businesses

By Karishma Dipa Time of article published May 2, 2021

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Small businesses have been devastated in South Africa and across the globe as the novel coronavirus continues to erupt.

Lockdown regulations imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19 has meant that for months at a time, these small enterprises, many of them family- owned, have had to close their doors.

Some never managed to open again while scores of employees have been retrenched as a direct consequence of the deadly virus.

Nedbank is aware of the impact the global health crisis has had on small businesses and in a bid to offer support, it is attempting to break the 50 kilometre ultra-marathon world record.

“As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the national lockdown that followed, both entrepreneurs and small businesses are working hard to rebuild their businesses,” Tobie Badenhorst, Head of Group Sponsorships and Cause Marketing explained.

In a bid to shine a spotlight on those small businesses who have been hard-hit by the pandemic, the financial services group will host the Nedbank Runified: Breaking Barriers ultra-marathon which will take on May 23 and will be hosted by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, with support for the racing event also coming from Eastern Province Athletics (EPA), which is affiliated with Athletics South Africa (ASA).

“We're so excited to see some of our greatest runners back on the road, and the prospect of a new world record makes it an unmissable event.”

Badenhorst believes that this exclusive ultra-marathon will attract top-tier elite runners and renowned industry names, making it one of the greatest running line-ups that South African running has ever seen.

“Nedbank has supported running for decades, and we’ve identified the need to get elite runners back on the road, give fans of the sport a really compelling TV product, and, in the process, continue to help small-business banking clients to get publicity and access to value-adding platforms that we've offered from the onset of the pandemic,” she explained.

While this is an event on its own that is expected to garner worldwide interest, Badenhorst added that there are other ways they plan on assisting small businesses through the race.

Picture by EPA/NIC BOTHMA

“Through sole-ownership and naming rights, the bank will forego multiple branding opportunities associated with the race and hand these over to 35 small businesses and entrepreneurs, giving them the opportunity to get back on their feet and see money differently,” she said.

“Through a partnership with SABC, including social-media exposure on Nedbank platforms and free advertising rights, small businesses and entrepreneurs will have a platform to get national exposure for their businesses.”

She said that the event can garner up to half a million “eyeballs” on their business and invited small businesses that have defied the odds to inform the financial services.

Meanwhile, National Manager of the Nedbank Running Club Nick Bester told The Saturday Star this week that he is also thrilled about this particular initiative.

Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/ African News Agency (ANA)

“We are looking forward to runners breaking barriers and world records,” he said.

The current world record for ultra-marathons is 2 hours, 43 minutes and 50 seconds for men and three hours, seven minutes and 38 seconds for females.

Bester explained that 2020 was a challenging year for athletes and runners in particular as the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a halt of social gatherings, including major sporting events.

This led to the rise of virtual races and while it has been somewhat beneficial for athletes, he believes that they now crave real competition.

“During the lockdown, athletes struggled without real competitive racers and while they were kept busy with virtual ones, they really want to compete with each other now,” said Bester.

He added that a lack of sporting events also meant that runners could not compete for prize money but that The Nedbank Runified: Breaking Barriers ultra-marathon seeks to address that through its lucrative R600 000 for the winner.

Apart from getting athletes on the track again and assisting small businesses across the country, Bester believes that this race will also aid the local tourism sector which has been devastated by the pandemic.

“Small business, particularly in the small towns in the Eastern Cape where the race will be held, will also directly benefit from this race because of all the visitors, athletes and their crew that will come into the province for the race.”

He concluded that South Africa is world-renowned for its athletics and that this record-breaking ultra-marathon will put the country amongst the elite once again.

“The Nedbank Runified: Breaking Barriers ultra-marathon has received a Bronze label by the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) – a label that has only been awarded to two other ultra-marathons in South Africa, Comrades Marathon as well as the Two Oceans Marathon.”

The Saturday Star

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