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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'They love the organisation' - 40 years and counting. The Johnson Crane Hire Marathon is back again

A closer look at the Athletics South Africa annual calendar reveals an interesting statistic. Many if not most of the road running events are not sponsored, but rather organised by social running clubs many of whom operate at a loss through the generous contribution of their members. For those that do enjoy sponsorship, fewer still can claim the honour of having a commercial partner or more. That's what makes Benoni Harriers special. Because when Johnson Crane Hire began sponsoring their annual marathon, perms were still in fashion and Bruce Fordyce had not yet won nine Comrades Marathon titles.

"Johnson Crane Hire Marathon is one of the most popular marathons and there is not a race outside the big Marathons in the country where we get over 4500 Marathon runners and 2500 plus Half Marathons. In 2020 just before Covid we had almost 8000 participants. This year we celebrate 41 years of continuous sponsorship," said Ashvin Jivan who heads up the organisation of the race which takes place at Willowmore Park in Benoni on Sunday 28 January.

The Johnson Crane Hire Marathon has stood the test of time. Pictured here are runners at the start of the 2016 race. Photo Credit: Bob Rungen.

And because the event has been going for four decades, their winner's circle includes the who's who of South African ultra marathon running as many Comrades and Two Oceans Marathon contenders use the race as a first real 42,2km tune-up for the season ahead. In 2016 for example, Charne Bosman won the women's race just five months before winning her one and only Comrades Marathon title, while multiple Comrades Marathon gold medalist Charles Tjiane won the men's race. 2024 will be no different.

"We have a number of top runners that will be taking part. At least six sub 6 hour Comrades Marathon runners will be at the race as we have been in contact with some of the top coaches who will be bringing athletes from their different training camps. We are also trying to help social runners who want to qualify for Comrades of Two Oceans. For this we have a total of 16 Bus Drivers for the 42km event, all of whom have been put together by Buks van Heerden who was contacted by the late Pete van der Merwe," he told #TheTopRunner.

Comrades Marathon pacers such as Shahieda Thungo will also be in action. Photo Credit: Johnson Crane Hire Marathon.

In a time when many events have struggled to bounce back from the devastating impact of the Covid19 lockdown, the Johnson Crane Hire Marathon is now approaching 10 000 participants. Jivan says runners keep flocking to the event because of the high standards that they set for themselves. "They love the organisation and the quality T-shirt that they get. You see runners training in the t-shirt all over the country. After Covid we have had the 2022 race where 3500 runners participated and then in 2023 we had 7500. This year we will eclipse that, and our target is 8500 plus."

With online entries having closed on Monday 22 January, those wishing to enter the race will have to settle for late registration which takes place at Sportsman's Warehouse in Boksburg from the 25th to the 27th of January between 9am and 4pm (3pm on the 27th).

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