Though he admits the 2022 season might not revert to complete normality, with the Covid pandemic remaining unpredictable and the nation still under lockdown, Athletics South Africa president James Moloi is confident next year’s road running campaign will feature a lot more social participants.
Some big races were still missing from the calendar this season – including the Comrades and Two Oceans ultra-marathons, and the popular Soweto Marathon – but the sport began to emerge from last year’s shutdown.
With health and safety restrictions being loosened, a few events were held, including the SA Half-Marathon Championships in Gqeberha, the Nedbank Runified 50km contest and the Spar Grand Prix women’s 10km series, featuring elite fields and international athletes.
Last month, government approved a return of amateur participants at the Cape Town Marathon, which hosted more than 6 000 runners, and the Durban 10k CityRun also welcomed a mass field, albeit within standard government guidelines which now allowed for 2 000 people at outdoor gatherings.
While the 2022 fixtures list had not yet been released, Moloi said on Tuesday that a full calendar could be expected, with more than 10 000 participants turning out at some events.
“It was tough for us, with people calling and asking when we would re-open races, and this series was a welcome relief for many of our top runners around the country,” Moloi said at the Spar Grand Prix awards.
“Despite the challenges faced by Covid, the races were well organised, and we must congratulate the athletes who were able to perform at the highest level.
“We look forward to seeing the numbers grow again next year, and we are confident we will be back to at least 10 000 athletes (at major races).”
Ethiopian athlete Tadu Nare was officially crowned Grand Prix Series champion at the awards ceremony in Centurion, after going undefeated in the six-leg campaign.
Nare, who clocked 2:23:53 to win the Barcelona Marathon on Sunday, pocketed R340 000 in the Grand Prix series, which offered R2 million in prize money across all age divisions.