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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Mzazi delivers hometown victory in final Fortress Running Series race of 2023

Gladwin Mzazi delivered on his promise to inspire the youth when he won his hometown race yesterday. The Boxer Athletic Club top runner who started running in the Klerksdorp township of Joubertina as a 13-year-old before moving on to Central Gauteng, returned to his native North West province to take on the final instalment of the 2023 Fortress Running Series at the Flamwood Walk shopping centre on Sunday 19 November. Mzazi did not disappoint as he won the 21km race ahead of Kemoreng Moabankwe and Ofentse Motlhomi. Winning a race where it all started was a special moment for the 35-year-old and he hopes it will inspire the next generation of elite athletes from Klerksdorp.

Mzazi winning the final Fortress Running Series race of the year in his native Klerksdorp. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

"I’m very happy that there is this race taking place in Klerksdorp, especially in the short distances (the Fortress Running Series includes half marathon, 10km and 5km races) because there are very few such races that get hosted at home. I think there are less than five races in a year that are hosted in Klerksdorp, so it’s great that Fortress brought a race here. When I was growing up, I used to have to go to nearby Potchefstroom to see big races with top athletes. So, it is exciting because the young ones get to see the athletes they admire and run with them in their own backyard," explained the former SA 5000m champion and 2-time World University Games gold medalist.

Mzazi’s sentiments were echoed by double Comrades Marathon Champion Tete Dijana. The 50km World Record holder has taken part in two of the four Fortress Running Series events this year at the Venda Plaza in July and Flamwood Walk. Dijana says he wishes that the Fortress Running Series will one day host a race in Mafikeng.

From Left: Legends Jan Tau, Tete Dijana and Stephen Morake posing with social runners who completed the Flamwood Walk event on 19 November. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

"In the town that I’m from, there’s not even a race - not even one single race. So that’s why I love the Fortress Running Series because it is taking races to those smaller towns which is good for identifying talent and the development of the sport," explained the man who was honoured with a certificate of recognition for his contribution to athletics at the 2023 Fortress Running Series at an intimate event on Saturday 18 November.

The women’s 21km race was won by Olympian Lebo Phalula who got the better of the up-and-coming Mamosebetsi Khajoane of Lesotho and Cornelia Joubert who also took part in the Fortress Running Series at the Evaton Mall in August. With the four stop 2023 series concluded, all eyes are on 2024 as runners call for more of South Africa’s rural and per-urban settlements to be included in the series. Without divulging too much, founder and organiser of the Fortress Running Series Dorah Mngwevu suggested that runners can look forward to more from the series next year. "All I can say is that we will be back with a bang. These are small beginnings, but when you put small pieces together, they make bigger pieces."

A Family Affair: Lebo Phalula's victory in the women's 21km event ensured that the husband and wife combination of Mzazi and Phalula walked away with top honours at the Flamwood Walk Shopping Centre. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

Since its inception in 2018, the Fortress Running Series has been dedicated to bringing the thrill of running events to rural communities, providing a platform for local residents to participate and showcase their athletic talent. Vuso Majija, Executive Director of Fortress Retail, said, "We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the 2023 races. The Fortress Running Series represents our commitment to supporting the communities surrounding the areas where we operate our shopping centres. Our centres play an important role in our customers’ lives: we offer convenience, value for money and improve their quality of life by bringing modern services closer to them."

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