Mandela Bay’s historic township race bounces back


JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News)THE last time the iconic Motherwell Freedom 10km race was held, it provided arguably the closest photo finish in local road running history.

That was before the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), whose eruption brought sport to a standstill.

Excitement is therefore building up ahead of the return of the Nelson Mandela Bay’s oldest township race, which bounces back after a two-year absence caused by the pandemic.

It returns to the momentous municipality in the Eastern Cape Province on April 23, after the 2020 and 2021 editions were not held due to subsequent restrictions imposed by the government.

Organisers are anticipating around 1 200 athletes to participate and clinch the R7 000 on offer for each of the winners of the men’s and women’s races.

“We are really excited to be getting back to normality,” Michael Mbambani, Motherwell Freedom run originator, told exclusively CAJ News Africa.

The event, meanwhile celebrating a milestone tenth edition, will have a new venue at the Raymond Mhlaba Sports Centre because of the inadequacy of its traditional host, the Motherwell NU2 Stadium.

Mbambani retold how the event he started in 2011 with the support of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality had borne the brunt of the pandemic.

He said the return of the race would enable clubs and runners to make up for lost time.

“Clubs and athletes took strain,” he said of the cancellation of athletics event in line with a series of lockdowns to curb the COVID-19 spread.

“We took a big knock not hosting the oldest township race in the Bay. There is hope now with athletes also knowing they can now earn,” he added.

Mbambani, also a coach and founder of Ikhamva Athletics Club based in Gqeberha, said they were expecting over 1 200 entries. This is up from 176 entries at inauguration.

“This race attracts lots Elite competitors,” he explained in an interview.

The Motherwell Freedom Run will be held in partnership with the Eastern Province Athletics and the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

“We are looking forward to a fantastic race and expect a fast and exciting finish,” Mbambani said.

The 2019 race, coincidentally the last before the pandemic, provided one of the best finishes.

Melikhaya Frans broke away from the front pack at the 7km mark with David Manja chasing.

Frans beat Manja by the nose, finishing one second ahead in 29 min 08 sec.

Rudo Mkhonderwa won the women’s race in 34.20.

– CAJ News