The annual awards gala of the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) kicked off in spectacular fashion in Durban tonight (Saturday, 15 October 2016) as the CMA honoured some amazing individuals together with major sponsor, Old Mutual.

The Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades awards gala celebrates 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 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.

Old Mutual Head of Brand Karen Thomas warmly congratulated all the winners: “Just doing this great race makes you a hero in our eyes, but the Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades Awards winners have gone even further, each of them enriching the event through their selfless conduct”.

“These are people whose selflessness, compassion and humanity have given rise to extraordinary acts,” she added. “Old Mutual is very proud to be associated with an event that salutes these people and honours the very best of human nature.”

The prestigious awards gala has been a defining feature of the CMA since 1991. The three Spirit of Comrades recipients are presented with a one-ounce, 24 carat gold medallion, courtesy of major sponsor, Old Mutual, as well as due recognition of their remarkable qualities.


The first awardee was Amit Sheth. Being passionate about the Comrades Marathon, he has successfully completed The Ultimate Human Race five times. He is the first Indian national to have run the Comrades Marathon in 2009, and in that same year, was appointed the Comrades International Brand Ambassador for the Indian subcontinent, a role which he has fulfilled with enthusiasm and pride.

Over the years, Amit has inspired, mentored and encouraged hundreds of people to spread the word of the world’s greatest footrace. His book, Dare to Run, which was published in 2010 became a bestseller in India and has helped to motivate people from all walks of life to get into running, and more specifically to come and take up the Comrades challenge. To this end, nearly 100 runners from India had entered the 2016 Comrades Marathon, up from 1 runner in 2009.

Despite his everyday job as the CEO of a successful engineering company in India, Amit makes the time to blog about his running experiences and share his running hints, tips and general motivation to runners all over the Indian subcontinent and across the world. He is a motivational speaker of note and also an amazingly great-heart when it comes to charitable fundraising.

To date, Amit has donated over two and a half million rand for the cancer treatment of underprivileged children at the Tata Memorial Hospital – the largest cancer hospital in Asia. With his quiet, unassuming nature and huge heart, Amit most certainly epitomizes the true spirit of the Comrades Marathon like few others can.


The second recipient of the coveted Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades Award was Rupin Mehta. Sacrificing his own Comrades medal to ensure that other runners achieved theirs was more important to this athlete than securing a 5th consecutive Comrades finish.

With a staggering number of Spirit of Comrades Award nominations coming in for Rupin, this amazing soul went on to demonstrate that a good deed seldom goes unnoticed. Television viewers and social media enthusiasts latched onto the images of an exhausted Rupin getting down on his knees to assist a fatigued runner.

Rupin first came to the assistance of Johan Kotze, who was struggling to continue with his race at 45th Cutting in Sherwood. With Rupin’s help and a bit of massage and motivation, Johan managed to complete his race and earn his medal within the 12-hour cut-off time.

At the finish, Rupin came across another athlete, Samantha Douglas who was battling with major cramps. He tried in vain to help her but just did not have the strength to get Samantha up and to the finish line in time. Spectators watched by helplessly, wearing their hearts on their sleeves.

And so it was to be that both Rupin and Samantha ended up failing to finish the 2016 Comrades Marathon by a meagre 21 seconds. Rupin’s actions on Comrades race day truly exemplified the indomitable Spirit of the Comrades Marathon and he was hence chosen as the second worthy Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades recipient.


Comrades race day proved to be a beautiful day to save a life for our third Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades awardee, Dr Shoyab Wadee. This amazing individual has shown each one of us that it is indeed more precious to save a life than to achieve a medal.

Dr Wadee was well on his way to enjoying his third Comrades Marathon finish when he came across a struggling runner, Willem Stolp at Botha’s Hill. Willem who was clearly unwell, had collapsed and was lying on his side, vomiting profusely. It was obvious that his condition was fast deteriorating when the good doctor rushed to his aid.

Willem’s state of health was deemed to be very serious with his blood pressure and heart rate dropping rapidly. All this time, the kind-hearted doctor was fully aware that his own finishing time was being compromised in a major way. Thankfully this did not deter him from lending a helping hand and potentially saving the life of the Tzaneen Athletics Club member.

Dr Wadee rendered emergency medical intervention and remained at the side of the semi-conscious Willem for well over an hour. By the time the paramedics had arrived on the scene, Willem was stabilized, thanks to the doctor’s efforts.

However, Dr Wadee soon realized that with the amount of time that had elapsed whilst he was assisting Willem, he would be unable to complete his third Comrades Marathon in the remaining time and decided to call it a day.

Tzaneen Athletic Club Chairperson, Paul Zaayman said, “Dr Wadee displayed a sense of selflessness that is admirable. To think that he sacrificed his own medal to help a total stranger – that is truly what the Comrades is all about!”

Such are the true heroes of the Comrades Marathon.

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