The Comrades Marathon’s status as a sporting and cultural event was underlined over the weekend when awards were handed out to several “remarkable individuals” who have boosted the iconic race on and off the road down the years.
Adding to the record-breaking wins by Tete Dijana and Gerda Steyn this year, the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) honoured Nato Amaral from Brazil, Satish Gujaran of India and Dean Wight from Durban at the awards gala at a beachfront hotel.
A new Chairperson’s Award was handed to Brian Swart, while a Long Service Recognition gong went to Jeff Minnaar.
The CMA said at the glitzy event that Brazilian Amaral has been a “true ambassador of the spirit of Comrades” by promoting the ultra-marathon in his homeland.
A resident of São Paulo, he has completed the Comrades 18 times and has helped to ensure that Brazil sends one of the largest international contingents of runners to the popular race.
Said the CMA:
Over the years, Nato also features as one of the top donors to official Comrades charity, the Community Chest, and was the first South American to earn his Comrades Green Number [after 10 finishes] in 2011.
Similarly, Gujaran is the first Indian national to earn a Comrades green number, and has been “enthusiastically promoting” the Comrades experience across his country, according to the CMA.
Gujaran helped to increase the number of Indian runners in the Comrades to over 400 this year.
“His comprehensive Comrades training programme in India encompasses training on routes closely simulated to the Comrades terrain, as well as guidance on nutrition and recovery. Additionally, he provides logistical support in South Africa for many participants from India,” said the CMA.
The third recipient, Dean Wight, supports people in their running ambitions and has raised an incredible amount of money for the Hillcrest Aids Centre through the Comrades for decades.
He received another award at the gala for being the top charity fund-raiser this year, having brought in R470 000 for the Hillcrest organisation while running for Queensburgh Harriers.
He has collected 32 Comrades medals to date.
Meanwhile, the Chairperson’s Award went to Swart because he has contributed 45 years of voluntary service to the race and has been the author of a historical and statistical review of the Comrades.
He completed the Comrades 15 times.
Like Swart, Minnaar from Pietermaritzburg has served the Comrades for much of his life.
“During his 50 years of service, he served as a former chairperson and finish venue convenor, among other things,” said the CMA.
The organisation also honoured several long-standing sponsors of the race, including Coca-Cola, Imperial Truck Rental, Toyota, Netcare 911, Hirsch’s and Southern Sun.
Said CMA chairperson Mqondisi Ngcobo:
Each of the awardees has showcased the true spirit of The Ultimate Human Race. May we long remember these noble founding values that this race is based on as we celebrate our awardees and sponsors.