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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Hamba kahle Sgora - Mthembu is laid to rest

Scores of runners were in attendance at the funeral service on Saturday to pay their last respects to their fallen Comrade. Mzamo Mthembu was one of two runners who lost their lives during the 95th running of the Comrades Marathon on Sunday 28 August after suffering a heart attack whilst running along the Pinetown stretch of the 90km route from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. He was taken to the Westville Hospital, where he later passed away. His Hollywoodbets Athletics Club teammates including friend and fellow club mate Mlungisi Woyisana were there to pay tribute to uMvelase.


uSgaqagaqa completes the Hollywoodbets Durban Summer 10km race in November 2021. Photo Credit: Hollywoodbets AC.

"Today was a very sad and emotional day but obviously at the same time we had to dig deep and be there for the family so that we celebrate the amazing life that our fellow member uMzamo lived. Also we took the opportunity to value the gift of life because most of us who run Comrades we must know that it is a privilege that we often take for granted. We appreciate that we had the opportunity to bid our final farewell to uMzamo and tell the family how much we valued his contribution and how much he loved the sport," said Woyisana after Friday's memorial service where the running community was well represented.


Affectionately known as Sgora, Mzameleni Mthembu was a relative new recruit to the Comrades family. Initially running in the colours of Ethekwini Athletic Club, the 42-year-old all-round fitness fanatic was a much-loved member of the KZN running community with friends from Pietermaritzburg to Amanzimtoti and Durban to Umhlanga. Having fallen in love with the idea of completing The Ultimate Human Race in 2015, Mthembu had been ready to run the 2020 race which was cancelled. At the beginning of this year he joined the Hollywoodbets Athletic Club and famously opened a WhatsApp group as soon as the 2022 date had been confirmed which he used to encourage other athletes and plan for the big day.


Although he never did earn a Comrades medal (the father of four was a novice in 2022) his gregarious nature, passion for road running and dedication to his fellow runners embodies the true spirit of 100-year-old race. Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) Chairperson Mqondisi Ngcobo who attended Saturday's funeral service said, “At this difficult time, we share our sympathy and condolences with the family, friends and running mates of these two athletes. We will continue to have them in our thoughts and offer them our support as they deal with their loss.”


Mthembu's passing has set tongues wagging about the gruelling nature of the world's most loved ultra marathon with some suggesting that running 90km over a notoriously hilly course is beyond the physical capabilities of most human beings. Woyisana disagrees. He chooses to see the silver lining saying preparation for the Comrades Marathon forces people to adopt healthy living which is what Mzamo's memory will be used to promote - especially after Mthembu's four children announced to those gathered that they will follow in their father's footsteps and lead a healthy lifestyle.


CMA Chairperson Mqondisi Ngcobo, Hollywoodbets AC's Mlu Woyisana and KZNA Deputy Predisent Mandla Mngomezulu at Saturday's funeral where runners ran behind the funeral procession to bid their Comrades a final farewell. Photo Credit: Mlungisi Woyisana.

"I know that after this tragic loss even myself, I've run 12 Comrades but my wife was saying that maybe not again. So a lot of people are saying that this running thing is not safe. But we are saying that every South African must run Comrades at least once. And even though some may say it's too long then at least a healthy lifestyle is something that all of us must live. In his memory as a club we will carry on and promote this culture of healthy living," he concluded.

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