'We want to see more kids getting involved in athletics' - Fortress Running Series to honour legends
As 2023 draws to a close many of the country's most popular mass participation events are behind us as runners plan their 2024 seasons. But one key event remains - the final instalment of the Fortress Running Series. Where many of the nation's 10km and half marathon races take place across South Africa's urban areas, this series of four 21km and 10km events took running to the nation's rural and peri-urban areas. With Venda, Evaton and Sterkspruit done, the final race at the Flamwood Walk in Klerksdorp takes place this Sunday 19 November.
“We identified a gap in rural areas where there is a lack of well-managed sponsored athletics and rural development events. The Fortress Running Series bridges this gap: most of the major events take place in the big cities, but these races give exposure to athletes from rural areas,” said 1992 Two Oceans Marathon champion Israel Morake, who started his running career in Sterkspruit.
And having identified the gap, Morake and his team found that they needed to do much more than just organise a quality sports event. Because the towns in which their Fortress Running Series races take place often don't have much of a history of track and field and road running, it means that before each race, Morake and company must start by visiting local schools where armed with Athletics South Africa (ASA) qualified coaches they run coaching clinics. Through these clinics kids are encouraged to take on the 5km fun run at each of the Fortress Running Series races, while one or two talented performers are identified for future success.
"We want to see more kids getting involved in athletics. Soccer is big now, so we also want athletics to be big. There’s a lot of talent in Mzansi," said one of the coaches ahead of the Evaton race. "We are doing coaching clinics as preparation for the running series and try to introduce children to athletics. It’s important that kids must run and practice and have knowledge of athletics," explained Dorah Mngwevu who is herself a former top runner and founded the Fortress Running Series alongside Morake.
And it's not just about the future champions. With a team comprising Olympic Silver medalist Hezekiel Sepeng, Morake and Mngwevu have decided to end the 2023 Fortress Running Series by honouring the running legends of yesterday at a gala dinner which will take place on the 18th of November. Celebrating top runners that hail from the North West province ahead of the Fortress Running Series race there, the likes of Matthews Temane, the Mogotsi brothers, Jan Tau and Jean Verster as well as current athletes like Stephen Mokoka, Tete Dijana and Edward Mothibi will be recognised for their contribution to the sport of athletics.
This is the first race being held at the Flamwood Walk shopping centre and is the last of the four races in the 2023 Fortress Running Series. Comrades legends Dijana and Mothibi will be participating in the race – join them by entering today! Entry forms are available at the shopping centre one week before each race or runners can enter online. Entry fees start at R60 for the 5km, R100 for the 10km and R150 for the 21.1km races. Children under 12 can participate in the 5km race for free. Supporters are welcome and can enjoy family-friendly activities like face painting, jumping castles and a play area, as well as live music and entertainment at Flamwood Walk Shopping Centre on the day of the race.