Mandela Day Marathon brings residents together

A brisk early morning wind served only to speed runners along at Sunday’s record Mandela Day Marathon between Imbali and Howick. 

Cheers and applause sounded as the seventh edition of the Mandela Day Marathon took off on Sunday morning at Manaye Hall in Imbali.

People were gathered on the streets of Imbali as early as 5 am, some warming up, running up and down the street, while others stood on the side of the road looking ahead and anticipating the start of the marathon.

Zakithi Mbambo from Azalea said she came to support her husband who runs the marathon every year, and she brought their daughter Dumsile Mbambo along. “We will support him right until the end at the Capture Site,” she said.

Supporters were also not scared off by the chill in Sweetwaters, as some cheered on wearing pyjamas and others covering themselves with blankets.

Some supporters didn’t even waste time getting dressed before stepping out to enjoy the atmosphere of the Mandela Day Marathon. Photo by Jonathan Burton

Marathon road marshals also stood firm in the chilly early morning breeze, waving their flags and cheering on coming runners.

Philani Mtungwa from Ashdown, one of the marshals on the Hilton route, said he made sure he wore layers of clothing and brought his earphones to pass the time.

“Just before you get to Hilton, there were no signs of people, just trees and chilly weather, so I played my favourite songs and danced a bit to keep warm,” he said.

Despite organisers running out of water at some refreshment stations towards the end of the event, all went well with only minor injuries reported. An official at the medical tents said no one was severely injured.

“No one died, and no one suffered major injuries that required intensive care, so all went well,” he said.

Trishan Pillay from Durban and Rialine Steyn from Richards Bay said they both had a wonderful experience and will surely be coming back again.

Mathalente Zuma from Nkandla had one of the few creative outfits for the event. Participating in the 21 km, she wore what she felt would go with her club colours; a wavy pink skirt, club t-shirt and leggings.

“I like to feel comfortable and confident when I run, and that is why I designed the outfit I’m wearing today,” she said.

Some residents of Hilton were irritated that entrants to the 21 km event had parked haphazardly all over the village, in flower beds and in loading zones and disabled parking bays. For some, their fury boiled over and they deflated the tyres of offenders’ cars.

Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo said he was proud of this year’s marathon as he felt it went better than any South African marathons he’s been to.

“With just seven years running, the marathon has gathered 24 000 athletes, that says a lot about the event. It is the fastest growing and biggest event in the country,” he said.

The winners of the main 42,2 km race were Sintayehu Legese Yinesu (Ethiopia) in the men’s category and Loice Jebet (Kenya) in the women’s category, each walking away with R100 000. The winners of the 21,1 km race are Bernard Bii (Kenya) in the men’s category and Mamorallo Tjoka (Lesotho) in the women’s category, each walking away with R20 000.

KZN MEC for Cogta Nomusa Dube-Ncube said: “The Mandela Day Marathon has again demonstrated our capacity to organise world-class sporting events that not only bring people together for a common purpose but also provide much needed economic opportunities for our communities and municipalities in KZN.”

The two-day event, which began on Saturday, aimed to celebrate and preserve the legacy of former president Nelson Mandela but also provide business and jobs for the local communities in the uMgungundlovu district.