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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'These events activate the talent' - Sepeng impressed with first Fortress Running Series Venda race

Hezekiel Sepeng is impressed with the impact on athletics development made by the Fortress Running Series in taking quality athletics events to the rural areas of South Africa. The Olympic silver medalist who is also one of the series’ ambassadors, made the trip to northern Limpopo for the inaugural Fortress Running SeriesVenda Plaza 21km and 10km road race which took place in Thohoyandou yesterday. Having grown up in a similar setting in the township of Ikageng in the North West province, Sepeng said staging these sorts of events outside the big metros is what is essentially to unearthing talent and growing the sport.

Comrades Marathon champion Tete Dijana joins fellow runners at the start of the 2023 Fortress Running Series 21km and 10km race in Venda on Sunday 16 July. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

"We had fun with all the community coming out to run and exercise. They are happy and that’s what we wanted. These events activate the talent because some kids will come here and run and never look back. A lot of rural areas don’t have events like these because they take place in the cities, which is why we felt it is important to bring these events here."

Reigning Comrades Marathon Champion Tete Dijana also took part and was the star attraction in a field of over 350 participants across the 21km, 10km and 5km races. Running alongside training partner and fellow Comrades champion Edward Mothibi, they enjoyed a relaxed run interacting with and posing for photos with their admirers.

Dijana, Mothibi and athletics journalist Matshelane Mamabolo (159) enjoy running in Venda. Photo Credit: Supplied.

"The race was good. I enjoyed the place. The place is beautiful. I like it. It makes me feel special because it’s a privilege to see people wanting to take photos with you. It shows that we are an inspiration to these young boys and girls. My advice is for people to go and train because this race is tough and then come back again next year because Fortress will be there."

Since its inception in 2018, this event 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 this is what the company is all about.

Sepeng has applauded the initiative for taking quality road running events to the rural areas. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

"We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the race, and to those who came out to support them along the route. These races embody our commitment to supporting the communities surrounding the areas where we operate our shopping centres. We put our customers first by providing a safe shopping and lifestyle space."

The men’s 21km race was won by Nedbank Running Club’s Makgoba Given Masemola in 1:06:20 while Rosaline Isiaah of Kenya took the women’s half marathon in 1:26:13. In the 10km race, 16- year-old Kamogelo Mnisi from Daveyton in Gauteng stole the show beating the seniors to cross the finish line of the undulating course in 42:39. The next race in the Fortress Running Series will take place at Evaton Mall in Evaton, Gauteng, on Sunday 20 August 2023.

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