“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) celebrated the goodwill and noble qualities associated with the spirit of the Comrades Marathon as it hosted its annual awards gala in Durban on Friday, 13 October 2017, together with major sponsor, Old Mutual for the third year now.
The Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades awards gala honours three remarkable individuals every year for their very human attributes of selflessness, dedication, perseverance and Ubuntu; combined with their love for The Ultimate Human Race.
The prestigious awards gala has been hosted by the CMA since 1991. The three Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades recipients are awarded a one-ounce, 24 carat gold medallion. More than that, the award is a very notable recognition of someone who embodies the Comrades spirit and inspires others to do good.
More than fifty individual nominations were received this year, the majority of which were submitted by Comrades Marathon runners and the general public. The CMA welcomes nominations from the public at large as well as its members and other stakeholders.
The CMA’s Heritage & Traditions Committee adjudicated the nominations and made recommendations which were then approved by the CMA Board. The awards criteria place special emphasis on Comrades Marathon winners, legends, volunteers and otherwise ordinary heroes and heroines; who through individual acts of service, sacrifice, courage or perseverance, either in a single race or over a period of time, exhibit the noble qualities associated with The Ultimate Human Race.
FIRST RECIPIENT: HIDEO TAKANO
With six nominations coming in for the first Spirit of Comrades Awards recipient, and with fellow runners having only adulatory things to say about him, coupled with his commitment and sacrifice at this year’s race, selecting Hideo Takano for this year’s accolade was a fitting one.
Hideo, who hails from the United Kingdom, has completed The Ultimate Human Race 17 times. With a personal best of 9:54:39 in the 2012 Down Run, he would have easily achieved his 18th Comrades finish at this year’s race.
But thanks to his great heart and personal commitment to help a fellow runner, Collin Gill aged 70, on his third attempt at achieving his Green Number, he sacrificed his own medal in order to stick with his struggling compatriot, until they were both forced to retire from the race at the Cato Ridge cut-off, with 30km to go.
Hideo has been described as “a true comrade; a great ambassador for the race and an inspiration to many Brits who come to South Africa each year, just for the Comrades Marathon.”
Through his love for The Ultimate Human Race, he has continued to drum up support for the race; and assist and encourage runners to train and prepare for Comrades. He has been endorsed by many runners as helping to grow the UK tally of runners in the Comrades Marathon. Of nearly 70 countries participating in the Comrades Marathon, the UK has retained its prime position in terms of international entrants over the years.
Being a proud member of the Comrades Marathon Green Number Club, Hideo knows the race incredibly well and has assisted with the annual Comrades International Bus Tour for eight years, volunteering as a tour leader and translator for the Japanese runners and their guests. His goodwill is palpable, with an infectious smile and tons of enthusiasm.
SECOND & THIRD RECIPIENTS: STEVEN VIENINGS & VISHAL KANJEE
The second and third recipients of the coveted Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades Award have both contributed to displaying the very noble, selfless and compassionate attributes of The Ultimate Human Race through a combined act of goodwill, kindness and sacrifice. Steven Vienings, a member of Magnolia Road Runners, and Vishal Kanjee from JoziX Training were deemed the kindness champions of the 2017 Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades Awards gala after sacrificing their 2017 Comrades medals to assist another athlete.
Steven has completed the Comrades Marathon three times whilst Vishal was attempting his very first, with great hopes of completing his novice Comrades journey.
This dynamic duo, who came together along the 87km Comrades Up Run route per chance, have been credited with potentially saving an anonymous female runner’s life at this years’ Comrades Marathon.
Onlookers have testified to Steven and Vishal’s selflessness, comradeship and deep resolve to helping a female runner in need, despite them knowing full well that they would miss the impending cut-off by stopping to help the just-collapsed athlete.
Whilst other athletes continued running seemingly unperturbed, Steven and Vishal, both with limited first aid experience, began helping the runner by turning her onto her side. They also administered compression as she was losing consciousness. It was clear that she was struggling to breathe as well as being visibly dehydrated, hyperventilating and on the cusp of going into anaphylactic shock.
Steven and Vishal’s quick thinking and ready assistance helped to stabilize her and keep her conscious until paramedics arrived about 15 minutes later. They unfortunately never got to meet her or find out her name but their good deed was certainly noticed whilst so many other passing runners focused on making the looming cut-off.
Steven says, “Comrades is my reason to wake up and run and stay healthy. I love the journey to the race. My favourite points on the route are Arthur’s Seat, Halfway, Ethembeni School and best of all the spectators, they are absolutely amazing!”
Vishal says the race means a lot to him as it is such a definitive South African event and so much a part of growing up as a proud South African. He says, “I used to watch it on television and think that someday I will be the one to cross that finish line. That was until I decided to make it a reality and actually enter and run it. Just getting to the Comrades Start line was epic. I look forward to going the whole mile. Comrades is the ultimate!”
JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR: CHARLES BALOYI
This year’s Comrades Journalist of the Year was a reporter from The Daily Sun. He has written the most articles on The Ultimate Human Race this year, drumming up support and consistently showcasing the enduring spirit of the Comrades Marathon. He is Charles Baloyi.
This popular sports reporter tells us that the Comrades Marathon is more than just a race. In his words: “Every year South Africa anticipates Comrades Marathon race day. To see thousands of enthusiastic runners’ and supporters lining up the streets at the crack of dawn is awesome. This is an epic, proudly South African event that has captured the imagination of South Africans and the world.”
Charles adds, “I also like the craziness of the race, the character of the runners. Everyone is a friend in this iconic ultra-marathon. The cheers from the supporters on the sidelines urging the runners to go on is priceless. The spirit of the Comrades Marathon is simply amazing. As a reporter and supporter, it is a privilege to cover The Ultimate Human Race!”
TOP CHARITY FUNDRAISER OF THE YEAR: TRACY BAMBER
The CMA is exceedingly proud and passionate about the Comrades Amabeadibeadi Charity Drive which benefits 6 officially recognised charities. To this end, the CMA presents its Comrades Marathon Top Charity Fundraiser Award to the person who has raised the most funds for the Comrades Charities. The winner of the prized accolade was Tracy Bamber who raised more than 70-thousand rand for the Starfish Greathearts Foundation, her chosen Amabeadibeadi charity.
Tracy tells us that she loves everything about the Comrades. “It is an honor to be recognized for something that I am passionate about! To be able to raise money for communities and love for people through something that brings so much to my life is something small that I can do to try and assist those so much less fortunate than myself.”
Tracy adds, “I would like say thank you to the Comrades Marathon Association for putting on an extraordinary event that allows us to reach our dreams and a platform to assist others – what a privilege. I plan to continue my Comrades running and fundraising journey into 2018. Asijiki - I am not turning back.”
2017 WINNERS JACKET: BONGMUSA MTHEMBU AND CAMILLE HERRON
The glitzy evening also saw the awarding of the Comrades Marathon Winners Jackets to the 2017 Men’s Winner Bongmusa Mthembu and Women’s Winner, Camille Herron, who flew out of the United States of America to be present for the handover.
Bongmusa, who runs for Arthur Ford Athletic Club, is the first South African to win both the Down Run and Up Run since 1987. He claimed First Position this year with his winning time of 5:35:34. Camille is the first American to win the Comrades since 1997. She took the women’s glory in a winning time of 6:27:35.
CMA LIFE MEMBERSHIP AWARD: MIKE COWLING
The CMA Life Membership Award is conferred upon members who have rendered outstanding meritorious service to the race. Michael Cowling was the only recipient of the esteemed accolade this year.
He has served the CMA in various capacities for 17 years. Mike served on the CMA Board of Trustees for 8 years while simultaneously heading the CMA’s Legal and Constitution Committee, which he still serves on. He also volunteers as a Co-Convener of the Pietermaritzburg Registration portfolio and serves on the Corporate Governance Committee.
Mike has completed the Comrades Marathon an amazing forty times, making him one of just 16 Comrades finishers to be enlisted on the esteemed Comrades Marathon Quadruple Green Number Roll of Honour.
“Well done to the Comrades Marathon team for hosting yet another world class event,” says Old Mutual’s Vuyo Lee. “From the participants to the organising team to the extensive media coverage, Comrades goes from strength to strength. This is highlighted once again by the Spirit of Comrades. Every year thousands of runners at Comrades deal with numerous issues on race day, and in our eyes every Comrades runner is special,” says Lee.
“However, the Spirit of Comrades is dedicated to those people who are able to capture the ethos of this incredible race through deeds that go above and beyond the call of duty of a mere race participant. There are not many races around the world like Comrades, and that’s what makes the Comrades Marathon and the Spirit of Comrades so uniquely powerful.”
CMA Chairperson Sifiso Nzuza says, “We congratulate all of our recipients at tonight’s awards gala. We thank Old Mutual and all other sponsors and partners, for their contribution to the success of this event; and for supporting this platform where we get to recognize the accomplishments of our Comrades heroes and heroines.”
Nzuza adds, “Each of the awardees have showcased the true spirit of the Comrades Marathon. May we long remember these noble founding values that this race is based on as we celebrate our winners tonight.”