A SMILE OF contentment flickered across Dorah Mngwevu’s face even as she complained of being fatigued and a little disappointed at the mishaps that threatened to spoil the final race of the 2023 Fortress Running Series at the Flamwood Walk Shopping Centre in Klerksdorp.
Understandably tired after spending a week preparing for the three-in-one-race whose main event – the half marathon – was won by the husband and wife duo of Gladwin Mzazi and Lebo-Dina Phalula, Mngwevu had every reason to be pleased.
For while it was the first time they were hosting the race in the North West city, and thus teething problems were to be expected, Mngwevu deserved a pat on the back for having brought a top running event to a city seemingly forgotten by the sport.
Along with her team at ISMO Athletics Club which includes her husband Israel Izzy Morake (the former Two Oceans Marathon champion) and son-in-law Hezekiel Sepeng (the Olympic 800 silver medallist), both of whom are the club’s co-founders with her, Mngwevu succeeded in bringing hope to local runners.
Prior to the race on Sunday, the organisers had conducted coaching clinics for school kids in the area and the huge turnout and excitement told the story of an area in need of events such as these The night before the race, they had an intimate ceremony aimed at honouring runners who have put the province on the map.
FORTRESS RUNNING SERIES FINAL A MASSIVE SUCCESS
Among those were current Comrades Down Run champion and record holder Tete Dijana who is also in possession of the world’s best time in the 50km. He ran the 10lm on Sunday but was more there to inspire local runners who jostled to take pictures with him after the race.
Dijana ran at the season-opening race of the Series at Venda Plaza in Thohoyandou where he ran the half marathon and expressed his delight at what Fortress and ISMO Athletics Club are doing for the development of the sport while imploring them to bring a race to his hometown next year.
“In the town that I’m from, there’s not even a race – not even one single race. So that’s why I love the Fortress Running Series because it is taking races to those smaller towns which is good for identifying talent and the development of the sport,”
And that’s exactly the aim of the Series which also had races in Evaton as well as Sterkspruit, Morake’s hometown where the concept was birthed and thus hosted the inaugural race back in 2018.
As she reflected on the year and the four races, Mngwevu expressed delight at the love they received in Thohoyandou where the turnout was huge and saw kids as young as six running the 5km and grandparents over 90 years of age also participating.
KLERKSDORP WORTHY OF A MAGNIFICENT EVENT
“It really has been a successful year especially because we took the race to two new towns and we got a positive response. Venda was just something else and we were very pleased with the buy-in we got from everyone there inclusive of the municipality. And while not all of the legends from the North West province who we wanted to honour turned up, we are not discouraged. And we intend to continue taking the races to other areas and to honour those who contributed to this sport that we all love. All I can say is that we will be back with a bang. These are small beginnings, but when you put small pieces together, they make bigger pieces.”
Small beginnings, but beginnings nevertheless and they received the approval of elite athletes such as Mzazi who was happy that his hometown was honoured with such a race.
“I’m very happy that there is this race taking place in Klerksdorp, especially in the short distances (the half marathon, 10km and 5km races) because there are very few such races that get hosted at home. I think there are less than five races in a year that are hosted in Klerksdorp, so it’s great that Fortress brought a race here. When I was growing up, I used to have to go to nearby Potchefstroom to see big races with top athletes. So, it is exciting because the young ones get to see the athletes they admire and run with them in their own backyard,” explained the former SA 5000m champion and 2-time World University Games gold medalist.
No wonder then that Mngwevu was smiling, tired as she was following what has been a very busy and taxing yet successful year of organising races for parts of the country that would ordinarily never get to experience such.
Vuso Majija, Executive Director of Fortress Retail, said, “We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the 2023 races. The Fortress Running Series represents our commitment to supporting the communities surrounding the areas where we operate our shopping centres. Our centres play an important role in our customers’ lives: we offer convenience, value for money and improve their quality of life by bringing modern services closer to them.”
By Matshelane Mamabolo