Tragedy has struck at this year’s Mandela Day Marathon, as one of the participants died just a few metres to the finish line. The male runner died after participating in the 21-kilometre race between Pietermaritzburg and Howick in KwaZulu-Natal.
The athlete, a teacher by profession and a well- known member of the Save Orion Athletic club, collapsed at the Mandela Capture site in Howick where he was treated and admitted to hospital where he later died.
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has expressed sadness. The Department said it is the first time that an athlete has passed away during the marathon since the inception of the race in 2012.
The marathon, which honours the late former freedom fighter and global icon, was won by an Ethiopian couple this year. Husband Muhajr Sraj won the men’s race in 2 hours 26 minutes and 18 seconds, while his wife Sofiya Chegen beat South African Silindokuhle Ntuli to win the women’s leg.
The couple also broke the race records.
Sraj led the field of over 20 000 runners from take-off at the Mbali township in Pietermaritzburg to cross the finish line at the Mandela Capture site in Howick.
He won R100 000 for the race and R 50 000 for breaking the race record, while Chegen also broke the women’s record.
The Mandela marathon is a KwaZulu-Natal government project, and most officials ran during this year’s edition. KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala was among the first 2019 marathon runners to make it across the finish line.
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