Matshelane Mamabolo.
Matshelane Mamabolo.

OPINION: Tough times call for sensible minds

By Matshelane Mamabolo Time of article published Mar 22, 2020

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No races. No refunds. These are tough times for us runners.

But then again no one is having easy times, are they?

Such is the impact of the coronavirus pandemic that life is not what we know it to be.

The month of March is often pretty bright. There is the beauty of the bright coloured cosmos flowers lining up the roads mingling with the luminous bright running vests of runners clocking up high mileage in preparation for the Comrades Marathon.

But thanks to Covid-19, the roads are pretty dull. Runners are despondent given the cancellation of races and their high mileage training has come to a screeching halt thanks to the uncertainty regarding the Comrades Marathon.

While many runners are understanding of the cancellations, most are up in arms over the fact that they have lost money.

Most races do not give refunds, the likes of Two Oceans and Irene Ultra which have been cancelled having told runners that the registration monies they have paid are not refundable.

Talk about adding salt to injury.

It was thus refreshing to read a message from the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon organisers whose race in October could well go on as planned.

“Sanlam Cape Town Marathon has decided that, if need be, it will refund all entry fees for all the weekend events in the case of it being cancelled for October 2020. We have decided to overrule our T’s & C’s in these uncertain times and guarantee our runners their entry fee."

Now here is an organisation which understands that runners do not have pockets full of money.

All week long most runners were talking glowingly of Cape Town Marathon’s thoughtfulness.

Not so the Comrades Marathon though, albeit mainly due to a lot of misunderstanding.

The organisers of arguably the world’s greatest ultra marathon have taken some flak for what government deemed irresponsible behaviour after they announced that the race would go on as planned on June 14.

By the look of things, the race is going to have to be postponed to a later date given the outlook by the health ministry that the rate of infections is likely to keep rising.

While they did not initially say this out loud, the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) had long started putting plans in place for an alternative race day for late in September. That they announced their race was going on as planned was on the proviso that everything would be reviewed after April 17, in line with the plan of their governing body, Athletics South Africa (ASA), who have suspended all events until then.

But the Comrades message was found by many, including Minister of Sport Nathi Mthethwa, to be irresponsible and insensitive during this very difficult time.

For most runners, who were clearly unaware of the CMA aligning themselves with ASA, the decision to review things a day after closing the substitution period, smacked of greed and money mongering by the Pietermaritzburg-based organisation.

These tough times call for a very well thought out communication strategy that will be sensitive to the battle that the country - and indeed the world - is grappling with.

Talking of grappling, I had a pretty good one hour long run yesterday morning and found that the shin splints that had kept me out of action for two weeks are no longer an issue.

It was good to be back on the road, the fact that there is no race on the horizon notwithstanding. Fortunately, I had not pre-registered for any races and I thus do not need any refund.


Sunday Independent

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