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Unisans conquer the 2024 Comrades Marathon

Unisa supports and encourages the wellbeing of its workforce and as such, more than 20 staff members ran the 2024 Comrades Marathon. Many of these staffers are members of the active and vibrant Unisa Athletics Club.


Unisa staff lined the route to cheer for the runners, with the university's NSRC President Nkosinathi Mabilane, showing his support with a plackard

This year, more than 20 600 runners from all over the world came to South Africa to participate in this gruelling 86-kilometre uprun marathon. This annual event is among the world's largest and oldest ultramarathon races. The route was lined by spectators who cheered the runners and kept them motivated. Unisa runners were supported by staff members from the head office and the KwaZulu-Natal Region, who were dedicated to assisting the runners with refreshments and minor medical attention.

Pre-Covid in 2019, the field was capped at 25 000 runners, and the entry process closed after one week. South African runners constitute the greater part of the field, but many entrants hail from India, the United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, the United States, Brazil, Australia, Botswana, Russia, Eswatini and Japan. Over the years, more than 10 000 runners have reached the finish line within the cutoff time. With increased participation since the 1980s, the average finish times for both sexes and the average age of finishers have increased substantially.


Prof Mpho Ngoepe

Representing Unisa, Prof Mpho Ngoepe, Executive Director of Library and Information Services, was the first Unisa runner to cross the finishing line, clocking 6:42.30’, thus finishing in the top 200. Ngoepe says that when at primary school, he preferred running, while his peers played soccer. "Ever since then, I never looked back," he says.

Ngoepe states that he is grateful for the university’s management and fellow staff members for their unwavering support during preparations, and for the motivational send-off ceremony at the main campus.


Prof Sibusiso Ndlangamandla

In addition to Ngoepe, the university was represented by Prof Sibusiso Ndlangamandla, Matome Lebepe, Motsatsi Ratala, Gezani Beka, Noko Mojela, Thomas Freddy Mathebula, Mpho Collen Maaboyi, Dorah Mmatau Lebepe, Morgan Mashweu, Tsepo Steve Matseke, Modise Moseki, Mamotsau Eric Magoro, Matlenye Makena, Lesedi Matsetse, and David Nteo, who are all members for Unisa Athletic Club. Staff members affiliated with other athletic clubs were Donavan Morapedi, Mlungisi Khanyile, Sphelele Ncgobo, Mpho Tshesane and Thuthukani Msomi.

The Unisa Athletics Club Executive Committee penned an emotional congratulatory message to all the runners. The committee said: "We would like to firstly congratulate the brave Unisans who braved the cold KZN Region weather and who dared to dream the impossible by lining up and finishing the ultimate human race – the comrades ultramarathon."

Unisa’s Comrades Marathon runners are truly awe-inspiring and are a remarkable example of what the human spirit can accomplish when determined. They are a beacon of hope to the thousands of Unisa employees who were cheering them on from the sidelines and their couches.

The club’s executive committee, led by Ali Makena, Lebogang Kotsokoane, Bongani Ntuli and other members, said without the support of the university’s executive management, they would not have managed to successfully participate in this year’s marathon. In this regard they thanked the Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Puleng LenkaBula; Acting Vice-Principal: Institutional Development, Prof Solomon Magano; as well as the Acting Executive Director: Human Resources, Dr Phumzile Dlamini for their unwavering support to the athletes.

The KwaZulu-Natal Regional Health and Wellness Committee coordinated support for the runners and the Communications Department ensured Unisa brand visibility at strategic points along the route. All Unisa athletes were supported equally, regardless of whether they ran under university colours.

Bongani Ntuli from the head office and Simangele Ndlovu from the KZN Region said everyone who participated in this amazing experience and supported Unisa’s athletes played a critical role in ensuring that they succeeded in their endeavours to achieve a better race-finishing time – thus making Unisa proud.

Their achievements embody the very essence of human endurance, camaraderie and the pursuit of excellence. This year’s marathon has once again highlighted the remarkable feats that can be accomplished through perseverance and an unwavering commitment to one’s goals. In the spirit of Unisa’s aspiration and commitment to become the African university in the service of humanity, this could not have been demonstrated better than supporting and taking part in the ultimate human race – the Comrades Marathon. Congratulations to all Unisa’s 2024 Comrades Marathon runners.  

* By Siyabonga Seme, Manager: Communication, KwaZulu-Natal Region, with additional reporting by Godfrey Madibane, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2024/06/20

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