BY SIBONGISENI DELIHLAZO
Many nurses from various workplaces descended on KZN to join the more than 14 000 other runners for the ultimate human race – the Comrades Marathon – which took place on Sunday 28 August.
The Acting General Secretary of DENOSA, Kwena Manamela, led a group of nurses who took part in this year’s 89 kilometre Comrades Marathon from Pietermaritzburg to the finish line at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Tete Dijana of Rustenburg, originally from Mmbabatho, won the race in 5 hours and 30 minutes, leaving behind his teammate and fellow Nedbank Athletics Club member, Edward Mothibi in second position who crossed the finish line at 5 hours and 33 minutes.
Joining Manamela in the race were DENOSA Western Cape Provincial Treasurer, Lucas Munzhelele, who was taking part in his 10th race; nursing colleague at Stutterheim Correctional Centre and DENOSA shop steward, Nonyameko Mvumvu; and a fellow nurse at Stutterheim Hospital, Nkosinathi Mnyanda, who taking part in his very first Comrades Marathon race.
They are running under different running clubs. Manamela is running under Polokwane Athletics Club, Munzhelele under Metropolitan Athletics Club, Mvumvu under Buffalo Runners King Williams Town and Mnyanda under Khulani Athletics Club.
As a united show of commitment to a cause of healthy living, all the nursing athletes who were tracked by DENOSA reached the finish line at the maginificant Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, elbeit at different times and on different paces.
Mnyanda was the first of the nursing forces to cross the finish line at 14h32, nine hours and two minutes later, at a flying pace of 06:02 minutes per kilometre. Manamela arrived on the cross an hour later, at a pace of 06:39 minutes per kilometre, thus finishing his 10-hour run on the day; and he was followed by Munzhelele 53 minutes later at 16h23 at a pace of 07:16 minutes per kilometre. Mvumvu finished the race at a time of 11:26 minutes at an average pace of 07:37 minutes per kilometre.
But reaching the finish line of this famous race does not come easy, and it often comes at a hefty cost to one’s body and after prevailing over many niggling physical challenges, often triggered by both the hills and valleys of the race.
The race and the unique challenges
Known as the ultimate human race, the athletes experienced different challenges along the race. Unfortunately, this years race saw two athletes succumbing. The Comrades Marathon Association confirmed the deaths of two runners who participated in the race. One runner passed away just before reaching the half-way mark while the other succumbed in hospital.
The one consistent comment from the participants of this race, however, is around the effects of COVID-19 on the athletes. The race had to be cancelled for two consecutive years, owing to the coronavirus pandemic, which came with strict restrictions on the movement of people generally, including running.
The pandemic had a serious effect the level of preparedness for the runners. Many said they struggled to finish the race, while others had to rely on the experience – years of taking part in this race – which carried them through the rough physical waves. Although the weather was not hot on the day, many runners experience many physical challenegs like cramping, dehydration and some generally struggled to breathe, which could be the effects of COVID-19 infection as it attacked the lungs. Many athletes had to be resuscitated along the route, say athletes.
With the race taking place three years after it was last held, it will be interesting to find out what extent, scientifically, did COVID-19 trully had on the athletes this time around.