'We're hard at work to ensure we have a successful race next year' - new CMA Chair Mqondisi Ngcobo
Newly elected Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) Chairperson Mqondisi Ngcobo says his first order of business is to make sure that the 2022 race happens and to woe more sponsors. Runners celebrated when it was announced that the Ultimate Human Race would be going ahed next year after a two year Covid19-enforced hiatus. Ngcobo says that's the main challenge the new CMA Board will face; ensuring that they put on a safe race while attracting new sponsors.
"I have mixed feelings," he told #TheTopRunner who called to congratulate him on his new appointment which took place at last week's CMA AGM. "I’m excited but at the same time I'm taking over where there are a lot of challenges with the race. Because of Covid19 we haven't been able to have a race for two years, so there is a lot of work to be done," he explained.
Much of that work will involve convincing commercial partners that a Comrades with fewer participants will remain as attractive as the pre-Covid editions which routinely drew 20 000 runners from around the world. Last month Athletics South Africa (ASA) President James Moloi hinted that the sport's governing body is in discussions with the Department of Sports and Recreation to allow all mass participation athletics events a maximum of 10 000 runners in 2022.
This pleases Ngcobo who believes that they can organise a safe race, even if it is with fewer runners than they have become accustomed to hosting. "We are hoping to have a physical race. Obviously the priority is to ensure that we have systems in place to ensure the safety of our runners. We will be monitoring the conditions," he said.
As successful as the 2020 Comrades Race The Legends virtual event was (40 000 runners from 86 countries took part), Ngcobo's comments about hosting a safe race betray the CMA's commitment to staging a real 90km race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban next August. Part of that determination is based on the need to attract new sponsors after headline sponsor Bonitas Medical Fund chose not to renew their deal last year.
"It is top of our agenda," said Ngcobo when asked about the urgent need to bring in new commercial partners. "We really want to appreciate our current sponsors like Hollywoodbets, Toyota and Mr Price Sport for staying on board over the last two years. Obviously the sponsorship market is tough at the moment. But we want to make sure that by the time we announce the race for next year we have more sponsors. We are hard at work to ensure that we have a successful race," he concluded.