It was a night of honouring the truly deserving amongst us as the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) hosted its annual awards gala in Durban on Friday, 18 October 2013.

The CATHSSETA Spirit of Comrades awards gala celebrates three awesome individuals annually 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 a defining feature of the CMA since 1996. The three Spirit of Comrades recipients are presented with a one-ounce, 24 carat gold medallion, courtesy of CATHSSETA (Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality & Sports Sector Education & Training Authority) as well an acknowledgement of note.

The awardees are nominated by CMA members, Comrades Marathon runners and the general public; and are subject to the discretion of 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.

The first Spirit of Comrades awardee was Brad Brown. Brad has worked tirelessly over the past four years to raise money for the Amabeadibeadi charity campaign. Not only did he overcome major physical obstacles to complete the Comrades Marathon several times, but Brad very selflessly gave of his time and effort to set up the Race 4 Charity website and inspired the special ‘CC - Charity seeding batch’ to motivate runners to raise funds for charity.

The Race 4 Charity initiative has since raised R2.4-million rand for the Amabeadibeadi charities and Brad continues to inspire Comrades Marathon runners to race for charity and support the greater good.  For his sterling efforts, Brad was awarded with the coveted Spirit of Comrades medallion.

The second notable awardee was Australian runner, Joseph Ta. When fellow Aussie runner Joanne Tremonti had collapsed from hypoglycemia on Race Day, Joseph selflessly put his race on hold to carry her to the Comrades Marathon Medical Tent. Not only that, Joseph patiently waited 45 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. He remained there until Joanne had regained consciousness and was safely in the ambulance. After an hour and a half of waiting and caring, Joseph then went on to complete the race alone. He has been described as a kind and caring person and his noble deed went on to earn him the second prestigious accolade.

The third Spirit of Comrades recipient was Vincent O’Neill, a British runner who ran the grueling 89km distance to drum up support for the endangered rhino. Vincent’s passion for saving the beleaguered rhino drove him to finish the epic race in a 12kg rhino costume, bearing in mind that the 2013 Comrades Marathon was also one of the hottest and most difficult races in nearly 40 years. Vinny was amazed at the camaraderie and support along the route, with many runners guiding him to the refreshment stations and even helping to feed him. Many runners were left deeply impressed by Vincent’s honourable deed in creating awareness of the incessant rhino poaching in our country; and creating a real spectacle of himself along the Comrades Marathon route whilst advocating a truly worthy cause.

Another facet of the glitzy evening is the CMA’s Journalist of the Year Award. This is a sincere acknowledgement and appreciation of the important and enduring work of the media and rewards the journalist who has shown a year –long interest in the Comrades Marathon; and in that spirit has generated the most media coverage for The Ultimate Human Race. Sarel Van Der Walt once again claimed the prestigious title by being the most prolific messenger of the Comrades Marathon good news and received a cash reward and due recognition of his sterling efforts.

The presentation of the CMA Greenest Refreshment Station Award to SASOL was next. This is a significant acknowledgement of the efforts made by the hosts of the refreshment stations on Comrades Marathon Race Day to keep their areas clean and green. Some of the defining features of the cleanest and greenest refreshment station is the drive to recycle waste generated on the day and to ensure that their stations are spick-and-span and that the route is cleaned up after the runners have passed.

Over the years, the CMA has also recognized key role-players in the Comrades Marathon family. Four deeply deserving individuals were presented in this regard with a CMA Life Membership Award. These were CMA Board Member, Neville Thomas and Start Venue Portfolio Conveners, George Roberts and Ian Kerford. The CMA is also mindful of the efforts given off by individuals and organizations who have contributed in a significant way to the Comrades Marathon Association over the years. Due recognition and appreciation was accorded to these do-gooders for their outstanding service or for going beyond the call of duty in adding value to the Comrades Marathon via the CMA’s Certificate of Appreciation.

These notable tokens of gratitude were presented to Ian Laxton, in recognition of his amazing years of service to the Comrades Marathon in the media sector. Mr Price Group was also recognised in this category for its many years of IT sponsorship and support; and overall involvement with the CMA.

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