Racing in honour of the country’s freedom activist

REACH FOR THE STARS: The 2017 Two Oceans Marathon winner Lungile Gongqa visited Sabalele village to motivate long-distance runners for the Chris Hani Freedom Marathon Picture: BHONGO JACOB
REACH FOR THE STARS: The 2017 Two Oceans Marathon winner Lungile Gongqa visited Sabalele village to motivate long-distance runners for the Chris Hani Freedom Marathon Picture: BHONGO JACOB
The 5th annual Chris Hani Freedom Marathon 25km defending champion Janet Mbhele aims to retain her hard won title when she takes part in this year’s instalment of the prestigious race.

The marathon set to be staged at Cofimvaba in Sabalele on Saturday is part of the 10th Chris Hani Month celebrations held by the Chris Hani District Municipality, in honour of the SA Communist Party leader Chris Hani.

Mbhele, 23, said he would defend her title in the marathon that retraces Hani’s footsteps from Sabalele as his birthplace, to Zigudu mission where the struggle icon attended school.

That was the route Hani undertook on a daily basis during his school years, including Sundays as his family worshipped at the Zigudu Catholic mission.

“Now that I know the route , I have prepared specifically for it even though there’s a lot of pressure on my shoulders. Because there’s a lot of people who are watching me after what I achieved last year, but I’ll try and not to disappoint them,” said Mbhele.

She said the experience she gained during her amateur racing days in 2012 has helped shaped her mind into an athlete’s mentality.

“I always went to small races around the province, and that motivated me because I grew into running. Because as a junior I had a tough time when it comes to winning, but the support I had back home was enough to push far.

“2010 I started showing that I can do more and I also grew more confident and it’s those small races that showed me I could do it. So when you are a runner you just need to be disciplined and to listen to your coaches,” said Mbhele.

She said she was prepared for the much-anticipated race which is expected to host more than 3000 athletes. “I’m ready now because I’ve prepared and I feel fit now. Let’s just meet on the track now where everything will be made clear.”

She said her preparations were difficult but necessary as she wanted glory.

“It was very hard when I first began my prep, but thank God I did because I feel very confident now.

“Even when I was sleeping – my body would always be aware of the work ahead every morning.

“So there was no rest at all but everything we did with my coach was for the best,” said Mbhele.

The race also has a 10km run and a 5km fun run/walk.

Chris Hani District Municipality, spokesperson Thobeka Mqamelo said it has grown immensely from 2013 which was the year of its inception.

“From a 1000 entries to an overwhelming 2600 in 2017. We have an attractive pool of prizes totalling R150000 with prizes as follows, R25000 for the first place in 25km, second place will get R10000; third place will get R5000. For the 10km run first place R10000; second place R5000 and third place R2500.”

Mqamelo said the race was sanctioned by Athletics SA and endorsed by Athletics Transkei.

“This race attracting athletes from across our district, Athletics Transkei affiliates, and from individuals across SA. The Municipality has a strong support from the Association of Running Legends of SA led by Xolile Yawa who is our race ambassador.

“Born in within the district –at Cacadu, Emalahleni Local Municipality. The legends who include Dora Mngwevu, Hezekiel Sepeng and others, will undertake coaching clinics as a buildup to the marathon which is widely attended by young locals,” said Mqamelo.

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