Legends builds on tradition

Road-running takes centre stage on the Buffalo City sporting calendar this weekend with the fourth edition of the Legends compendium of races.

Club-organised road races take place most weekends in the city, but the Legends is a significant event and has national stature.

It builds on a proud tradition of past national championship events and a new history in the domain of ultramarathon running.

That many of the corporate clubs will send teams to race is testament to the fact that the 68km and the half-marathon are taken very seriously.

The two top ultramarathons started out as club initiatives with small fields.

The Comrades Marathon was a Collegian Harriers-organised race between Pietermaritzburg and Durban in celebration of the Great War.

Two Oceans was a Celtic Harriers brainchild that was equally sparse in competitors at the start and then grew into such a well supported event that it has become a sporting business of its own.

Legends started as a dream of its chairman, Luthando Bara, and the difference is that it has started out in a professional era with big prize-money to attract top athletes from the outset. That has had trappings of its own and the race has had to adapt to changing circumstances.

The 2017 Legends is almost a relaunch of the original, with the new ultramarathon route, believed by most to be faster and more appealing than the previous one. The race maintains its original historical significance by starting at the site of the 1992 Bhisho massacre.

Finishing, as it now does, at the Orient Beach it possibly reflects and offers a feel of a more celebratory nature, with the tranquillity of the Indian Ocean as the backdrop.

In the political realm the province produced many fine leaders, from Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, the Mbeki father and sons combination, Chris Hani, Steve Biko, Robert Sobukwe and many others.

On the running front the province has been no less of a leader, providing nationally acclaimed half-marathoners, with two world best times set on the East London Esplanade.

That the histories of those great events have now been embraced by Legends adds huge significance to the event and will preserve this rich heritage. Individual runners who stand tall include the Two Oceans record holder, the late Thompson Magawana, who is a son of the Border-Kei region. Multiple road-running champion Zithulele Sinqe, who was part of the 60:11 half-marathon time, not yet bettered on African soil, is from the province, as is Xolile Yawa – one of the greatest all-round athletes ever, a multiple Olympian and winner of the Berlin Marathon.

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