2016 Old Mutual Soweto Marathon raising the bar
01 January 1970
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. The countdown is well under way to the 2016 Old Mutual Soweto Marathon and bigger and better this year as well. I think we’re in for an absolute treat. There have been a few changes and I think they’re fantastic changes and we’ll chat a little bit more about that on this episode of Old Mutual Live as well.
We’re joined now by the Executive Chairperson of the Soweto Marathon Trust, Sello Khanou. Sello, welcome, thanks for joining us, nice to chat. Exciting times, I know it’s still a way away but these things have a habit of creeping up on us. I think it’s important we talk about it now.
Sello Khanou: Thanks Brad, it is indeed a historic moment for the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon. So it is important to talk about these things well in advance, like we are doing now.
BB: Sello, let’s talk about the changes and particularly the one big one. There’s been a change in the start and finish venue. I think it’s awesome because as much as there’s some incredible landmarks in Soweto, that Calabash, that incredible football stadium is something special. To not have it part of a race as iconic as the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon would be an absolute crime. But you guys have managed to sort something out and we’re going to be starting and finishing at the Calabash?
Adding a splash of Calabash
SK: Most definitely because this is an iconic place to start and by the way, the Calabash, we drink our African beer in the Calabash. The FNB Stadium, it’s that Calabash that will bring together all nations from throughout the world.
This a big time and a great time for us to be starting here. Because we would like to grow to the likes of the New York Marathons of this world. This is the first step into getting our foot into the right door. By the way, the race will be starting at FNB Stadium on sixth of November on these distances, 42km, 21km and 10km. All the routes will be running into Soweto, unlike in 2014 when we had the 21km and the 10km running in the industrial area. This year around you will get a warm welcome of the Sowetons.
BB: Let’s talk about that warm welcome and the hospitality, as much as we talk about the iconic sights. We’ll touch on a few more of those just now, but it’s the hospitality of Soweto and the people of Soweto that make this race so special.
SK: Indeed, the hospitality is great, people are eagerly awaiting the Old Mutual Soweto race and as we know, they come out with buckets of water, hosepipes, the glucose powders, the salt. They know what the athletes need and more than anything, there can never be any robbery on the day of the race. Because the people are guarding this race with their lives. It is a great day, people are bringing out their braais in the open to support the runners. Indeed, for the Soweto people, it is the people’s race.
BB: That it is indeed. Sello, over the years, let’s call a spade a spade, there have been some issues around the Soweto Marathon from an organisation point of view. But I think last year a peg was knocked into the ground, showing people how great this race can be. You guys took a major step last year. From my point of view, you’re taking an even bigger step this year.
Plenty to look forward to in 2016
I think, to get the Soweto Marathon competing with the likes of the other major marathons on the world calendar, you mentioned the New York Marathon, I think of the London Marathon, you think of Boston, all those sort of ones. You guys as Soweto Marathon Trust and Old Mutual and the organisers, are really moving in the right direction with the way you’re putting things on. I know there was a massive debrief after last year’s race, looking at some of the issues that could be improved on. What are you hoping to improve on in 2016? What’s the plan?
SK: Well after our debrief, we sat and there were changes, for instance the start, there was a bit of a mess last year. We do acknowledge and at the same time we do apologise to those who were affected. But this time around I can assure that we really sat down and mapped out a way of doing things differently. We are serious because we’ve got the muscle of Old Mutual, as we know, it’s involved with other major races. Now we can never go wrong with Old Mutual and the likes of Nike in our midst.
BB: You’ve also got a new Race Director as well, Danny Bloomberg who we haven’t spoken to on the podcast, we spoke to him at the Old Mutual Two Oceans and at Comrades Marathon. Danny’s got a wealth of experience and he brings some nice, fresh, new ideas to the table as well. You’re very confident in the ability of Danny and his team to put on a world class event?
Soweto Marathon not the same without landmarks
SK: That is one of the major changes in the whole setup. Over the years we were sitting back and trying to find a formula for the race. Now with a Race Director to the likes of Danny Bloomberg, we are delighted because already we are on the move and a number of things are happening differently. As you rightly said, he’s got a wealth of experience and I’m sure we’ll be celebrating one of the successful races of 2016.
BB: Without a doubt. Sello, what I love too, even with the changes, the things that people love about the Soweto Marathon haven’t changed. We’ve mentioned the hospitality of the people of Soweto, but there’s some incredible landmarks. We’ve spoken about the FNB Stadium as an iconic stadium and the start and finish venue for the 2016 edition.
But there are some incredible historic places in Soweto that once again in 2016 we will be running past. It’s important that we do keep those landmarks included in the race, because that’s what this race is all about and celebrating the struggles and where we’ve come from.
SK: Yes, indeed, these landmarks are a history of SA. So once again, the route for the 42.2km race hasn’t changed. As usual it will pass through Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, go to Kliptown Square and Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication. Go up to Morris Isaacson where the whole march began. It will also go past Mrs Winnie Mandela’s house, Vilakazi street, the Hector Pieterson memorial, the Orlando Stadium. Then it will be off to NASREC.
By the way, the route that the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon runs, it is the route where the students of 1976 marched to protest and bring about the freedom that we enjoy today. It is imperative that all the runners should come and experience this because on the day of the race I usually experience the Madiba magic. The spirit of goodwill that flows from the start through the race and so people must come. This is positive energy and everybody should come and experience it. I’m telling you, it’s one of the best races that you can attend.
BB: Sello, we’re obviously talking about the marathon. You’ve mentioned the 10 and 21, there’s something for everyone. If you’re just starting out and you possibly think a marathon is a step too far or a half marathon, come out and do the 10km.
Not 1 but 3 big events
Get a couple of friends along and really experience the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon, it’s an incredible event and it will be etched into your soul forever. It’ll keep you coming back year after year after year. Sello, you are expecting 25 000 runners over the three events, so it’s going to be a big one this year.
SK: Brad, it will definitely be a big one because mentioning the 10km, this is a family race where people can come and push their pram with the children and enjoy the scenario of this historic event. On the 42.2, there is yet another new edition which incorporates the CGA Championships. This is for the athletes who would like to qualify for national and international events. So, they must ready themselves to come and get their time trials in this marathon.
BB: There’s some good money up for grabs as well for the elites?
SK: Yes, the prize has increased to R220 000 for the first prize. So on that I’m urging our local runners to please, this is for you, come and take the money, it’s local money. You can grow our economy and as for me, I can go on pension with this money, so people must watch out for me on the race!
BB: Sello, I’m going to let you have this one, I’m going to let you win it. Because I definitely will be hanging out at the back, I won’t be close to the front of the field.
SK: I’ll appreciate it!
BB: Sello Khanou, thank you so much for your time. If you want to enter the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon, the website to get to is sowetomarathon.com, all the details are there. You can enter the 10km, the 21km and the 42km.
We look forward to seeing you on the sixth of November, it’s going to be a spectacular day, we’re building on the successes of 2015. It’s just going to be an amazing day out. Go and enter, sowetomarathon.com is the website and we look forward to seeing you there. Sello, thanks for your time, much appreciated and all the best
SK: It’s a pleasure Brad, thank you.