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Popular Save Orion Race expected to draw huge crowds

By Jerry Barnes

The idea of a race is to promote healthy living as well as to try and grow running as a sport in the northern suburbs.

The Save Orion Race — a popular annual race in Pietermaritzburg — is scheduled for November 19 at the Msunduzi Athletics Stadium.

Weekend Witness’s senior sport journalist spoke to Orion AC chairperson Ajith Deena and asked him to trace the history of the event.

Orion AC was founded in 1997 and held its first race in 1999. The race was run in the northern suburbs and comprised a 15-km event as well as a five-kilometre fun run.

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The idea of a race was to promote healthy living as well as to try and grow running as a sport in the northern suburbs. The club’s motto is “Don’t do Drugs, Do Sport”.

In the earlier years, Orion AC aligned themselves with various charitable institutions and NGOs as partners in their annual races. Fifty percent of the proceeds were given to these institutions. Among the beneficiaries were Sunlit Gardens Children’s Home and Rainbow Hospice.

The club was fortunate to have notable race sponsors — New Home Furnishers, ValueProp and Nashua Maritzburg, to name a few.

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In 2010 Orion AC was fortunate to have The Save Group of companies come on board as their new race sponsor. In 2015 a decision was made to move the race to the CBD — starting and finishing at Save Hyper — due mainly to poor participation in the 15 km event. The club then began hosting 10 km and 21,1 km races as part of the event.

This masterstroke saw the race and the club grow by leaps and bounds, and the rest is history.

The Orion Athletic Club was subsequently re-branded as the Save Orion Athletic Club. The 10th Anniversary of the Save Orion Race in 2019 attracted over 4 200 participants.

Due to Covid-19 there were no physical races in 2020 and 2021. However, in 2022 a decision was made to move the race to the Msundusi Athletics Stadium.

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The Save Orion Race has strong support, attracting participants from throughout the province and the country as a whole. The well-stocked goody bags and T-shirts are value for money. Finishers will receive a medal.

Last year’s winning times in the men’s and women’s 21,1 km event were 1h:08m:40sec and 1h:20m:13s respectively, whilst in the 10 km the first man finished in 30m:47s and first woman in 44m:15s.