The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) celebrated the goodwill and noble qualities associated with the spirit of the Comrades Marathon as it hosted its annual awards gala in Durban on Friday, 27 October 2023, together with its sponsor, Government Employee Medical Scheme (GEMS).
The GEMS Spirit of Comrades awards gala honours three remarkable individuals for their very human attributes of selflessness, dedication, perseverance and Ubuntu; combined with their love for The Ultimate Human Race.
The prestigious awards gala has been hosted by the CMA since 1996. The three GEMS Spirit of Comrades recipients were awarded a one-ounce, 24 carat pure gold medallion. More than that, the award is a very notable recognition of someone who embodies the Comrades spirit and inspires others to be selfless and showcase the inherent values of goodness in humanity.
More than fifty individual nominations were received this year, the majority of which were submitted by Comrades Marathon runners and the general public. The CMA welcomes nominations from the public at large as well as its members and other stakeholders.
The CMA’s Heritage & Traditions Committee adjudicated the nominations and made recommendations which were then approved by the CMA Board. The awards criteria place special emphasis on Comrades Marathon winners, legends, volunteers and otherwise ordinary heroes and heroines; who through individual acts of service, sacrifice, courage or perseverance, either in a single race or over a period of time, exhibit the noble qualities associated with The Ultimate Human Race.
FIRST RECIPIENT: NATO AMARAL
The Comrades Ambassador for Brazil, Nato Amaral is an enthusiastic Comrades Marathon runner. Having 18 Comrades finishes under his belt, Nato plays an important role as a true ambassador of the Spirit of Comrades.
He has been voluntarily working as an officially nominated Comrades Ambassador for Brazil since 2008. Nato is unquestionably an inspirational leader of his country’s running community. Thanks to him, Brazil is amongst the largest international contingents of Comrades runners year on year.
The race has grown in numbers in Brazil, mostly due to Nato’s dedication, having the record number of over 1700 Brazilian runners who entered the 2020 virtual Comrades, after the real race was cancelled due to Covid-19.
Over the years, Nato also features as one of the top donors to official Comrades Charity, the Community Chest and was the first South American to earn his Comrades Green Number in 2011.
SECOND RECIPIENT: SATISH GUJARAN
Satish Gujaran, the first Indian national to earn a Comrades Green Number, has been enthusiastically promoting the Comrades experience across India. He has been described as a silent brand ambassador for The Ultimate Human Race.
From being part of the handful of Indian participants who started running the world’s greatest footrace around a decade ago, Satish has played a role in increasing the number of Indian aspirants from the subcontinent to beyond 400 this year.
While being an accomplished athlete capable of winning medals of a higher category, Satish has over the last five years sacrificed these by slowing down to accompany the apprehensive Indian first timers across the finish line.
His comprehensive Comrades training program in India encompasses training on routes closely simulated to the Comrades terrain, as well as guidance on nutrition and recovery. Additionally, he provides logistical support in South Africa for many participants from India.
THIRD RECIPIENT: DEAN WIGHT
Dean is looked upon as a pillar of strength and support in the Upper Highway community of KwaZulu-Natal. He actively supports people in their running ambitions and has dedicated his life to running and to the people in and around the community.
He has used his love of running to help and support those who are unable to help themselves. He has raised an incredible amount of money for official Comrades Chairty, the Hillcrest AIDS Centre.
Apart from this, he continues to support and promote other charities and other people’s passions. He is a loving husband and father to his fur babies and is a wonderful example of a man of integrity, grit and passion.
Through his upstart, Beloved Long Runs, Dean has inspired many aspirant athletes to take up running and fuel their passion. He runs for Queensburgh Harriers Athletic Club and has amassed an astounding 32 Comrades medals.
CMA JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR: KHOTSO SELLO
This year’s Comrades Journalist of the Year was a reporter from Newzroom Afrika. He has covered The Ultimate Human Race with passion and fervour this year, both in the build-up to the 96th Comrades Marathon and post-race; drumming up support and consistently showcasing the enduring spirit of the Comrades Marathon. He is Khotso Sello.
This popular sports reporter tells us that the Comrades Marathon is more than just a race. In his words: “The Comrades Marathon is a heartwarming reminder, that hard work, passion, teamwork, enjoyment and determination are the key ingredients to success.”
Khotso takes home a certificate of recognition as well as a cash reward of R30,000.
CMA TOP CHARITY FUNDRAISER OF THE YEAR: DEAN WIGHT
The CMA is exceedingly proud and passionate about the Comrades Ambeadibeadi Charity Drive which benefitted five officially recognised charities this year. To this end, the CMA presents its Comrades Marathon Top Charity Fundraiser Award to the person who has raised the most funds for the Comrades Charities.
For the first time in Comrades history, the person honoured as the Top Charity Fundraiser is also one of our highly esteemed GEMS Spirit of Comrades awardees. This year, more than R470-thousand was raised for the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust alone by Dean Wight.
Dean says, “I would like thank the Comrades Marathon Association for putting on an extraordinary event that allows us to reach our dreams and has further created a platform for us to add value to people’s lives and help one another. I plan to continue my Comrades running and fundraising journey into 2024 and beyond.”
CMA CHAIRPERSON’S AWARD: BRIAN SWART
The CMA Chairperson’s Award will be presented for the very first time in the Comrades Marathon’s rich 102-year history. The award recognizes outstanding individuals who contribute in meaningful ways to the Comrades Marathon and to society in general. The awardee is generally nominated and selected by members of the CMA Board.
The winner of the inaugural CMA Chairperson’s Award was Brian Swart. Having completed the Comrades Marathon 15 times, Brian has contributed 45 years of voluntary service. He has served on the International Bus Tour Portfolio for 27 years and produced a historical and statistical review of the Comrades Marathon that is second to none. He currently serves on the CMA’s Heritage and Traditions Committee.
CMA LONG SERVICE RECOGNITION: JEFF MINNAAR
The CMA Long Service Award recognizes the immense contribution of individuals to The Ultimate Human Race. One such person is Jeff Minnaar who has given a five-decade long service to the Comrades Marathon.
He has contributed to the CMA in various capacities over his fifty years, including serving as a former Chairperson and Finish Venue convenor.
CMA SPONSOR GREEN NAME AWARDS
The CMA also honoured long-standing sponsors of The Ultimate Human Race, namely:
- Coca-Cola for 40 years of beverage sponsorship
- Imperial Truck Rental for 35 years of truck hire sponsorship
- Toyota for a 20 year-long motor vehicle sponsorship
- Netcare 911 for 20 years of medical sponsorship
- Hirsch’s for 12 years of appliances sponsorship
- Southern Sun for 12 years of hotel accommodation sponsorship
CMA Chairperson Mqondisi Ngcobo says, “We congratulate all of our recipients at tonight’s awards gala. We thank GEMS and all other sponsors and partners, for their contribution to the success of the Comrades Marathon; and for supporting this platform where we get to recognize the accomplishments of our Comrades heroes, heroines, legends and everyday ordinary people who go beyond the call of duty to do extraordinary things; and fly the Comrades Marathon flag on a daily basis.”
Ngcobo adds, “Each of the awardees has showcased the true spirit of The Ultimate Human Race. May we long remember these noble founding values that this race is based on as we celebrate our awardees and sponsors tonight.”