Close to 40 000 runners participate in the 50th Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

CAPE TOWN – Financial giants Old Mutual are not turning their back on road running.

While they will no longer be headline sponsors of the Two Oceans Marathon they have backed for the last 20 years, group sponsorship and event manager Bandile Mngoma says they are not deserting the sport.

“We will not be fully lost to road running,” Mngoma said at the end of the eventful 50th running of the popular Cape Town ultra at the weekend.

“Our involvement in Two Oceans will continue as we will be sponsoring the athletes village were runners without means can stay. And we will be transporting them to and from the race as we have been doing.”

Mngoma said Old Mutual would remain a headline sponsor for the Soweto Marathon.

“Besides being the main sponsors for Soweto, we will also still have the athletes village for that race and the Om Die Dam ultra.”

Looking back at their 20-year partnership with Two Oceans, Mngoma described as “an extreme success”.

“We contributed to the creation of full time and part time jobs for the race. Our involvement had a positive economic impact. We had a hand in the economic growth of the Western Cape with the province benefiting over R599 million from people who are flying in, hiring cars and booking into hotels and lodges. The hospitality companies benefited a lot from this. We contributed a lot towards tourism.

“It is milestone 20 years and we believe we also contributed towards transformation as the race now represents social cohesion of different diversities. We have seen people from 13 African countries participating in the event in all these years and the number growing each year.

We have had people from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Lesotho, Kenya, Ethiopia and other countries participating in the event so that means we can talk sponsorship even in those countries. Remember this race since it was started 50 years ago was open to all races,” added Mngoma.

Old Mutual also honoured blind runner Mandla Zwane for finishing his eighth ultra-marathon.

“We were touched by his story as Old Mutual and we thought it would be a good thing to honour him. The man clearly showed he is not disabled but differently abled. He is shining example for many of us.”

Zwane was given a trophy of appreciation and R1000 into his Old Mutual bank account.

Old Mutual spokesperson Tabby Tsengiwe said they were disappointed no-one claimed the R1m they had put up for the race record.

“We put this money up as we wanted to make South Africans richer but they all - sadly - failed to break Thompson Magawana's record,” said Tsengiwe.

Mbongiseni Buthelezi