The Comrades Marathon Association has conveyed its condolences to the family of Simon Mkhize. The 74 year old was the first Black runner to obtain his Comrades Green Number for running the Comrades Marathon ten times, and going on to achieve Double Green Number status.
Simon was a keen sportsman who inspired many athletes to get into running and especially take on the Comrades Marathon challenge in addition to other sporting codes.
Of his 20 successful Comrades finishes, Simon amassed 12 Bronze and 8 Silver medals. His best time of 6:40 was achieved in the 1971 Comrades. Due to the Comrades Marathon being officially opened up to runners of all races and genders only in 1975, Simon’s Comrades finishes before that year, were all retrospectively awarded to him.
Simon was born on 4 March 1942 near Howick. He was one of 9 children, with five sisters and three brothers. Simon started running when he was 28 years old.
After his first race, he realized that he enjoyed running so much that he couldn’t stop. Simon soon started entering and winning races, and so began his epic athletic career.
From archived news material, we learn that the year Simon had decided to take on the Comrades Marathon, spectators on the side of the road were very pleased to see him and other Black athletes running the race, and cheered them on.
Simon also found out that he liked other sports and soon got into canoeing. He was the first Black person to take part in the Duzi Canoe Marathon. However, Simon didn’t stop there; he also tried mountain-climbing as well as rafting, which became one of his favourite pastimes.
Macdonald Chitja says, “Simon was a pioneer and a leader, who inspired many young people to take up sport. He was passionate about sport and a very gifted sportsman. He pioneered the way for Black participants in the Duzi Canoe Marathon. Even in his later years he always had time to give advice to ordinary runners on how they could improve their running. He will be missed.”
CMA Vice Chairperson, Cheryl Winn says, “I personally did not know Simon, but my husband Mick remembers him as an accomplished athlete and upstanding citizen, entrepreneur, role model and trailblazer for future Comrades Marathon runners. He was one of the first athletes to be awarded medals retrospectively for having completed the Comrades Marathon unofficially prior to 1975 and which were substantiated as official.”
Former CMA Chairperson, Barry Varty says, “It is sad to learn that Simon has reached the 'end of the road', and crossed the finish line for the last time. We remember his disadvantaged years, and his retrospective reward in being recognized for his 'unofficial' Comrades Marathon runs. We don't say goodbye, we say: ‘Carry on Simon, we'll catch you later’.”
CMA International Brand Ambassador for Scotland, Don Mellor reflects on the humble and talented sportsman that Simon was. “I remember Simon as a 'quietly spoken man' who had an enormous running talent. It's no wonder that he went on to achieve such an amazing Comrades record. RIP Simon Mkhize.”
CMA Board Member, Terence Hoskins says, “I had the opportunity of getting to know Simon very well. He always exhibited the fine and noble qualities of a gentlemen, in sport as in life. He was a talented and disciplined individual who inspired many athletes to greatness. He was a great guy and will be greatly missed. My thoughts are with his family and friends.”
CMA Green Number Convener, Eileen Hall says, “I have huge respect for Simon as I knew him from when he ran with my Dad, Ray Karg. He was a very humble, respectful and pleasant runner.”
“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.” – Henry David Thoreau.
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.
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.
FIRST RECIPIENT: AMIT SHETH
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.
SECOND RECIPIENT: RUPIN MEHTA
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.
THIRD RECIPIENT: DR SHOYAB WADEE
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.
JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR: KHANYISO TSHWAKU
This year’s Comrades Journalist of the Year was a reporter from The Times Media Group; who has written the most articles and garnered the highest amount of AVE’s – that is advertising value equivalency - for the Comrades Brand this year. He is Khanyiso Tshwaku.
This popular sports reporter tells us that the Comrades Marathon means a lot to him. In Khanyiso’s words: "I always wondered why people took the time to run the 89km route over 12 hours when they could drive it in only an hour. Then I realized by covering the event, that there's more to the Comrades Marathon than just getting to the finish. It is an examination of the mind, body and soul that builds character and lifelong friendships."
TOP CHARITY FUNDRAISER OF THE YEAR: CAREL NOLTE
The CMA is exceedingly proud and passionate about the Comrades Charity Drive which benefits 6 officially recognised charities. To this end, the CMA presents its Comrades Marathon Top Fundraiser Award to the person who has raised the most funds for the Comrades Charities.
The winner of the prized accolade was Carel Nolte who raised 170-thousand rand for the Comrades Charities this year.
Carel tells us that he loves everything about the Comrades: “I have a deep respect for every person who takes part in the Comrades. This race demonstrates for me the very best of humanity and fills me with immense pride at being a South African.”
Nolte adds, “From the obvious "wow" moments like singing our national anthem at the start and crossing the finishing line, to the more unexpected special moments, the Comrades creates special memories. Raising money for charity whilst having immense fun for thousands of people is a great gift. Thank you to the Team Comrades!”
2016 WINNERS BLAZERS: DAVID GATEBE AND CHARNE BOSMAN
The glitzy evening also saw the awarding of the Comrades Marathon Winners Blazers to the proudly South African 2016 winners David Gatebe and Charne Bosman. David was especially honoured for breaking the previously recorded best down-run time by a whopping 2 minutes and 22 seconds. Charne ran the race of her life and few will ever forget the final kilometres of the 2016 Women’s race.
CMA CERTIFICATES OF APPRECIATION: SGB AND INTERFLORA
The CMA is always mindful of the effort of individuals and organizations who have contributed in a significant way to the Comrades Marathon Association over the years.
Due recognition and appreciation is accorded to two organisations 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 were presented to SGB and Interflora for 30 and 20 years of service respectively to the CMA.
CMA LIFE MEMBERSHIP AWARD: BRIAN SWART
The CMA Life Membership Award is conferred upon members who have rendered outstanding meritorious service to the race. Brian Swart has served the CMA in various capacities for 38 years. His nearly four decades of service to the CMA includes his contributions to the Route-marking, Publications, Finish Procedure and Green Number Club portfolios; and most recently, convening the International Bus Tours.
GRAND MERIT FOR EXEMPLARY SERVICE AWARD: MICK WINN
Special acknowledgement was bestowed on a special man in the Comrades Marathon world tonight. Mick Winn was honoured with a distinctive tribute to his 50 years of service to the Association.
Furthermore, the CMA announced that it will rename the Comrades Hall at Comrades House to the “Mick Winn Hall of Honour” in respect of him being the founding Chairperson of the Comrades Marathon Association and his immense contribution to the CMA.
CMA Chairperson, Macdonald Chitja said, “We are delighted to honour these outstanding individuals at our flagship awards gala tonight. Each of them has a unique story of camaraderie and goodwill that inspires us all to be the best we can be. It is incredibly motivating and we applaud them all.”