Asanda Matlhare
Intern Journalist
2 minute read
25 May 2021
5:15 am

Comrades Marathon celebrations off to a flying start

Asanda Matlhare

Blanche Moila, the first black woman to be awarded Springbok colours, in 1984, was elated to be a guest at the Comrades Marathon centenary celebrations.

Picture: Howard Cleland/Gallo Images

The 1921 Comrades Marathon Tribute Run saw 21 former winners of the famous race participate in a symbolic re-enactment of the first race, which had 34 starters take off from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall 100 years ago yesterday.

The marathon winners who participated in yesterday’s 2.2km run included Bruce Fordyce, Alan Robb, Tilda Tearle, Rae Bisschoff, Charne Bosmanand Kim Paine and were led by a vintage Studebaker.

Blanche Moila, the first black woman to be awarded Springbok colours, in 1984, was elated to be a guest at the Comrades Marathon centenary celebrations.

“The Comrades Marathon was undoubtedly the greatest ultra-marathon in the world.

“In my community, if you have never taken up the challenge of Comrades then you’re not an authentic athlete.

“Yes, I was awarded Springbok colours but my community didn’t regard me as an authentic runner until I ran the Comrades Marathon,” she said. Moila said the Comrades Marathon had people glued to their TV screens.

“Prior to the social unification in South Africa when our sportswomen and men were excluded from international competitions, the Comrades Marathon was the Olympics of Mzansi.

“The entire country came to a standstill to watch this awesome race on television.”

The running legend said although the sport tested her stamina and abilities, it was a great challenge.

ALSO READ: Comrades Marathon cancelled again due to Covid concerns

“Besides the euphoria of the year 2000, I was attracted to Comrades because of the qualities and the demands it placed on the mind, and another fact was it catered for all sorts of runners [super competitive runners and runners who wanted to experience the joy of ultra-distance of marathon],” she said.

“It really was a big deal to me because it afforded me the platform to support charities that were close to my heart. “In my 60s, I still found running gave me self-expression and the opportunity to test my barriers.”

Comrades Marathon association chairperson Cheryl Winn said although the coronavirus pandemic had affected the race’s centenary celebrations, the association had followed Covid-19 protocols.

“We decided to go ahead with the celebrations we started planning two years ago, which turned out to be a lovely day.

“We would have loved to have thrown this celebration open to all Comrades runners and I’m quite sure had we been able to do so we would have filled the Durban [International Convention Centre].

“Over 180 000 have run the race, so I’m sure there were more people who wanted to attend and not only the 250 guests that were invited today,” she said.

asandam@citizen.co.za