It always seems impossible until it’s done. – Nelson Mandela
While sitting with a mild chest infection after the Spar Pietermaritzburg run, I was not sure if I was going to be able to participate in this event. The Mandela day Marathon is one of the more popular runs due to the legacy of Nelson Mandela. This is a very tough 42km route which is an early qualifier for the Comrades marathon.
This year is the 8th running of the iconic marathon. This marathon boasts not only the road runs on the Sunday but also catered for the trail runners, mountain bikers and also a triathlon on the Saturday with an impressive amount of entries of approximately 21 000 athletes for the 2 days. That is a large amount of paperwork and planning.
An event of this magnitude will not be without its share of concerns and problems. There is a lot of planning, coordinating and mistakes that can happen with any project of this magnitude. We as the end user only see what has gone wrong instead of applauding what has gone right. If you have to think of the logistics of catering for 21 000 athletes, and four different types of events, there will be problems which are out of ones hands.
Registration is always an easy procedure online with costs varying from R130 – R190 excluding temporary licenses if required. Some of the errors and problems seem to have started with race pack collection. There was two collection points, one in Durban and the other was in Pietermaritzburg, to make it easier for the Durban athletes not to travel all the way to Pietermaritzburg.
Athletes stormed to social media to start complaints about the shirts. Some didn’t receive shirts at all and the sizing is way off. I personally do not like the design of this year’s shirt however it grew on me when I saw all the athletes wearing their shirts on race day. They are very small cuts and even in Pietermaritzburg they didn’t have the bigger sized shirts but we kept going back to get the correct size. They only had the very small sizes available.
ABSA had a stand at the collection venue and handed out stickers for people to write a motivational message and stick it on route. I would have loved to see the end product with all the good luck messages. The rest of the collection went very smoothly.
Other problems pre-race day was that contractors which were supposed to set up stands got threatened with being shot. Locals were unhappy with regards to the contracts being given to outsiders and not using the local businesses that could do the same job. It was all over the front page of the local paper. I am not sure how this was resolved but well done to those involved in resolving the issue. Having it postponed or even canceling the event would have been a real blow for this run.
I was fortunate enough this year to have been dropped off at the starting point and collected at the Capture site. The road runs all started in different towns, the 42km started Imbali, 21km started in Hilton and the 10km started in Howick. Communication was a bit unclear with the regards to the shuttle buses taking athletes to and from the venues. What would have been ideal, maybe for next year, is if the event coordinators send out an email with all the pre-race details, maps to parking, shuttle information and other useful information required pre-race.
Thankfully I was only doing the 10km race. Race day in the morning was very cold, however there is always something magical in the air, like an anticipation starting and seeing what your body is capable off. Previous years there was television coverage with the SABC but this year there was none. The start of the run was supposed to be at 6 am but we started about 10min earlier.
Later it was stated that the race started earlier due to safety reasons, apparently the transformer next to the starting point emitted smoke which led to the start being earlier, via a response on social media. Some athletes were still warming up when the start gun went. I was surprised I didn’t see a timing mat when we started so assuming they timed gun to mat.
I knew from the start I was not going to be able to push under doctors’ orders but just love the route of this race. Some of the views are spectacular past Midmar Dam and finishing off at the Mandela Capture site. There was adequate water tables, which supplied water, Powerade, Coke and some tables even had fruit. Reading, some of the longer distances ran out of water but they had the energy drinks and coke available. The mess on the roads were horrendous but saw the post clean up photos and the roads were spotless! Kudos to the cleaning team
I feel like I really have to mention to all runners, I felt sad for the longer distance athletes that had to shout at others to keep right so they could let them pass. They have been running for 20 or 30km already and to have the slower walkers block them must be so frustrating from my point of view. At one point there were ambulances and taxis blocking the left lane, walkers on the right, leaving a single file for the longer distance athletes. There is an unwritten rule – keep right let them pass, don’t jump and run to congratulate them. Let them run, and allow them to get their time.
I really love the route of this race, however it’s very busy with so many participants running into the capture site, makes you feel so important. Loads of runners and supporters at the end helping to cheer you on. The medals this year, the design was the same as previous years, however more tin like and less solid. A lot of people were complaining about the quality but I thought it was fine. I will hang the medal on my wall with the others.
Walking up and out to the end you receive a little goodie bag filled with a coke, powerade and packet of crips in a lovely draw string bag. It is quite a satisfying feeling when you complete the race, having that medal hang around your neck with that feeling of accomplishment.
Yes there were problems, this whole year most of the races had some kind of hick up causing a lot of unhappiness. I think for the most part, for the size of the event and the amount of participants, the different disciplines, it was a well-executed event. The problems can always be resolved in future events.
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela
Tell me what is your thoughts of the run, if you participated? If you were and event organizer what would you suggest that could be done differently.
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