Proceeds from 2022 SPAR Thembisa Mile to be used for development
Donald Mathipa struggled to hold back the tears as he recalled with gratitude the instrumental role that the late Action Ramaboea played in building what has become one of the most loved road races in Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA). Mathipa was speaking at the launch of the 2022 SPAR Thembisa Street Mile, which is back in its entirety for the first time since 2019 and scheduled to take place on Sunday 30 October. As the mile celebrates its tenth anniversary and the 10km race its seventh, the race's founder paid tribute to Ramaboea for his contribution to the event.
"He played a very pivotal in making sure that even when I am away and unable to implement some of the things on the ground, he would attend to them. And I'd like to say in heaven, thank you very much," said an emotional Mathipa of the man who passed away last year at the height of the pandemic. "We never had an opportunity to give him a dignified sendoff as the runners, especially from our side as Thembisa Athletics Club and his club Ivory Park Athletics Club. Kea leboha."
Having acknowledged the work done by his dear friend, Mathipa went on to explain how he birthed his brainchild which started as an 8km fun run. From those humble beginnings the SPAR Thembisa Mile has grown into a celebrated event that has hosted Olympic and World Championships medalists such as Caster Semenya and Johan Cronje over the mile, while Olympians such as Lebo Phalula and Elroy Gelant have graced the 10km.
"Now the name," he said to gathered guests who included Athletics South Africa President James Moloi, CGA President Steven Khanyile and defending men's mile champion Ryan Mphahlele. "I had to come up with something very unique. And after writing down many things, I realized that the Thembsia postal code is 1632 and then when take it and translate it into road running or track and field terms it is 1600m. I realized that is a mile, so let's go with the Thembisa Mile. And that is how I arrived at the name Thembisa Mile."
The mile which is an invitation only event attracts some of the best middle distance athletes in the country. In 2021, SA 800m and 1500m champion Prudence Sekgodiso won the women's race, while African Championships silver medalist Mphahlele won the men's race. Although Covid restrictions forced the cancellation of last year's 10km event, the end of the national state of disaster means that the 10km race will once again take place this October. As was the case in 2019, Mathipa is aiming for a sold out event of 2000 participants, the proceeds from which will be used to develop more talented youngsters like Mphahlele from the Ekurhuleni township.
"The plan here is to make sure that we establish a foundation that will be looking after this race and make sure that we are able to distribute the proceeds of this race to legitimate charity organisations in Thembisa. Thank you to SPAR because even at the peak of the Covid19 pandemic we were able to distribute 320 food packs to Thembisa Child and Welfare. For this year's event we are aiming to raise R30 000 for Thembisa Athletics Club activities. We have got kids. Parents just drop them and say take care of those kids. How those kids get to races, we have to make some plans. Managing a development club is expensive. " he said.