By FOCUS REPORTER
IT’S ALL smooth running from here…the entries are in, the routes are set, the media is onboard. With less than two weeks to go before the starter’s gun sounds, it’s all systems go for the Bonitas City2City Marathon.
The newly rebranded marathon was launched yesterday at an event attended by city officials, members of the press, and a number of South Africa’s top running stars.
The Bonitas City2City Marathon looks set to become Gauteng’s top running event, thanks to the expert guidance and professionalism of new owners, Premiere Sport Management, and the support of title sponsor Bonitas Medical Fund, a seasoned marathon supporter.
Under the guidance of marketer and runner, Daniella Shapiro, and ex-Comrades star Nick Bester, the City2City is a race reborn, with top-class organisation and logistical management both before and on race day.
In fact, at the launch, Bonitas’ GM: Sales and Marketing, Michael Macamo, said he believed that the new City2City “has the potential to do for Gauteng what the Comrades does for KwaZulu-Natal”. And with distances to suit all levels of runner – there’s the 50km ultra, the 21km half-marathon, and the 10km road race – the City2City will undoubtedly boost the popularity of the sport itself.
As proof of the marathon world’s renewed faith in the City2City, a number of top athletes from South Africa and other African states will be joining the thousands of runners taking their place at the starting line come 18 September.
2010 defending male champion, Zimbabwean Prodigal Khumalo (29), is back this year with team Mr Price, hoping no doubt to better his 2010 finish of 3:00:14. Top female runner from 2010, South African Riana van Niekerk, will also be back this year to defend her title.
Bonitas Team Elite’s Farwa Mentoor will be there, with her sights firmly set on gold. The first local woman to cross the line at the 2011 Comrades and the first woman ever to win ten gold Comrades medals, Farwa will be competing along with the rest of Bonitas Elite Team.
Other top SA running teams will also be competing, including Nedbank, Toyota and F1 Bluff Meats.
With such a strong field, this year’s tough up-run from Pretoria to Joburg could well end up smashing a few records. Top runners will need to dig deep though to topple the winning times set in previous City2City marathons. Bethuel Netshifhefhe’s 2006 win is an impressive 2:45:41, while Frith van der Merwe has held onto her record-making 3:04:30 time for 22 years, a time which is also the fastest ever by a South African woman over 50km. (How far we’ve come since 1903, when the first-ever winner of the City2City Marathon, Exton van der Poel, covered the 50km down-run between Joburg and Pretoria in 5:55:02.)
And even if new records remain elusive and Bethuel and Frith get to hold on to their records for yet another year, top runners will not see their efforts going unrewarded, with a total prize purse of R200 000.
But the cheques being handed out will not only have runners’ names on them. At the marathon’s launch yesterday, City2City and Bonitas presented cheques for R22 500 each to two charities: the Dunduzela Day and Night Care Centre in Pretoria, which fosters orphans and vulnerable children and is currently caring for 14 youngsters; and the Bethel Home of Care in Diepsloot, Zone 1, which serves nutritious meals to 50 HIV-positive people in the area, as well as offering them counselling and guidance, and teaching them crafts such as beading, sculpting and weaving.
With the successful launch behind them, race organisers are now focused on delivering a flawless racing experience on 18 September. It’s this sort of commitment to running excellence which is sure to see the Bonitas City2City Marathon achieving its goal: to become Gauteng’s premier road-running race and a highlight on the road-running calendar.
Entries for the 50km ultra-marathon, the 21.1km half-marathon close on 7 September. However, entries for the 10km race will still be accepted on the morning of the race at the venue – from 5am on 18 September, at the James and Ethel Gray Park.