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  • Writer's pictureCharles Baloyi

Ashworth signs for Boxer Athletics Club as Team Massmart closes down

In 2018, former Comrades Marathon champion Ann Ashworth launched the Massmart Running Club in Durban. The talented ultra-marathon runner had big dreams for her running club, and she recruited top runners including the likes of Mapaseka Makhanya to join her stable. Ashworth's dream of starting the first women's elite running club had come true. But in December, the brand that owns Makro and Games stores in SA ended its partnership with the running club due to the havoc wreaked on sport by Covid-19 forcing the club closed down.

Ashworth running one of her last races in Team Massmart colours at the Wonderpark Marathon in Pretoria in January 2020. Photo Credit: SmacPix.

"I wanted to make a difference in athletes' lives. But Covid-19 came and put an end to that. It breaks my heart to see that the club no longer exists," said the 2018 Comrades winner.

Althoug running Massmart was a big part of her life, Ashworth said they couldn't expect the sponsor to continue backing the club with no clarity on when ultra marathons in particular will resume. "The club closed at the end of December. It was hard to justify sponsorship with no guarantees of racing in South Africa. There are no races and no confirmations. There is no Two Oceans marathon, and we do not know if the Comrades Marathon will take place this year. The sponsors do not want to keep on spending money while there are no guarantees that there would be running events," explained Ashworth.

Ashworth (far right) poses with the rest of her Team Massmart runners before Covid19. Photo Credit: Ann Ashworth.

But things are looking up in 2021 because the attorney and her team have found a new home at the Boxer Athletics Club. "We moved to Boxer, and we appreciate them for taking us in. We will be running in the red colours of Boxer from now on," said Ashworth.

Even though there are no races currently, runners must still train and buy supplements and running shoes, which is why Ann is thankful for the opportunity to start anew. "You need new shoes, and training is vital to maintain a good shape. We are getting monthly retainers from Boxer, and we are grateful for that."

In addition to changing clubs, Ann has also changed cities swopping Johannesburg for Durban to pursue a new business venture with her family. " We are still settling down and so far, so good. I am training and working at the same time," said Ashworth. She admitted that she is not a fan of virtual racing and has not tried it.

She wishes to see running returning so that the athletes can feed their families and do what they love.

Ashworth wins the 2018 Comrades Marathon. Photo Credit: Ann Ashworth.

"I pray for political, health, and financial healing in South Africa. There is too much stress in the country because of the virus, and I pray for it to end," If the Comrades Marathon takes place this year, Ashworth said she would take part. " I would give anything to race the Comrades Marathon again. It is my everyday prayer to be back on the road," she added. She urged other runners to invest in education so that they can have something to fall back on when they are not running.

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