Matshelane Mamabolo column: A real pity that I missed out on tough Mandela Day Marathon

KwaZulu-Natal Athletics announced earlier this week that this year’s Nelson Mandela Day Marathon has been cancelled

FILE - KwaZulu-Natal Athletics announced earlier this week that this year’s Nelson Mandela Day Marathon has been cancelled. File picture

Published Aug 13, 2023


The Mandela Day Marathon is no more, and I have never run this iconic race.

It breaks my heart that I never got to experience what is generally regarded as one of the country’s toughest marathons.

While KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA) announced that the race, which was scheduled for August 27, has merely been cancelled, the Running Writer has it on good authority that the event will no longer happen – at least not under the same name.

A KZNA media statement released this week said that the event would have coincided with another 21.1km and 10km race in Durban, the latter also being the KZNA 10km championships.

Steve Mkasi, the president of KZNA, was quoted as saying they had “inadvertently took our eyes off the ball” in announcing in June that the race would take place.

But I have it on good authority that there has been a legal battle over the naming rights of the race between KZNA and Chief Zwelivelile Mandlesizwe Mandela and his RHOM Investments (Pty) Ltd.

Mandela served KZNA with a legal letter at the end of June, telling the provincial body they had no right to use the name “Mandela Day Marathon” because Mandela and RHOM were the “holders of ownership and proprietary rights vesting in the marathon” which was “conceptualised by Chief Zwelivelile Mandlesizwe Mandela”.

KZNA argued that the race was the brainchild of the ANC provincial government following the party’s regional meeting in 2011. It was initially discussed as just a race in celebration of the ANC’S 100 years in 2012, but then got adopted by the provincial government as a legacy project.

To-and-fro legal letters between the parties ended up in a stalemate. In the end, KZNA decided they’d rather go without the iconic name, and will thus have the race late in the year under another name.

The Mandela Day Marathon could have been the first 42.2km race I ever ran back in 2016.

I had registered and made the trip to KZN, and on the Saturday I was at the Capture Site for support duties.

The Sunday morning I awoke, excitedly anticipating my maiden marathon. But lo and behold, I found my car’s tyre flat at about 4am, and because I do not change tyres, that was my race gone. I could have called the AA, but there was just no way I was going to make it.

I experienced the Mandela Day Marathon some years later when I was on support duties for a friend and then club-mate who was chasing a sub-three-hour time.

The night before we drove the route and it scared me – that route is tough. I got more scared on race day when an oldish runner collapsed en route and later died, the ambulances having taken forever to arrive.

But I still wanted to run the race, and then Covid-19 happened.

When KZNA announced in June that the race would be happening on August 27, I had the idea of doing it. And then the news that it will not be happening anymore came last week.

The good news is that KZNA are going to have the race, albeit with a different name. My hope is that they don’t change the route.


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