ISRAEL MORAKE, the 1992 Two Oceans Marathon champion, believes South Africa has more running talent than the world’s leading nations in the sport but the country needs to make a concerted effort of unearthing and grooming boys and girls with potential.

“When I look at countries like Kenya, Jamaica, Ethiopia, they are the top in the world but the reality is that we are a lot better with the untapped talent that we have in the country. The problem in South Africa is that we don’t go out there and try to dig for that talent. We have lots of kids at schools but they don’t do any exercises.”

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Lest he be accused of making empty noise, Morake is putting his money where his mouth is though a series of road races that seeks to expose underprivileged areas to competitive running.

Through his ISMO Athletic Club in collaboration with Fortress Real Estate, Morake organizes the Fortress Running Series which hosts three-in-one race (half-marathon, 10km and 5km fun run) around the country.

Now in its fifth year, the Fortress Running Series is growing in leaps and bounds and this year’s edition has already had two events successfully hosted in Venda, Limpopo as well as Evaton in Gauteng.

The third race is taking place this Sunday in Morake’s home township of Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape and the man who earned two top ten finishes at the Comrades Marathon during the peak of his running career in the 90s is hopeful that they will have a good number of athletes participating.

“We are expecting to get about 800runenrs in our small township this weekend. With some crossing over from Lesotho as they’ve done in the past years. We are ready to host yet another successful race, thanks to the support of Fortress, which we believe will go a long way towards unearthing some talent. We have engaged schools here and they will be sending some youngsters to run the 5km race.”

ISRAEL MORAKE WANTS RUNNING BACK WHERE IT BELONGS

Morake says it pains him that South Africa is not among the leaders in the sport of running anymore.

“Back in the 70s and 80s we used to be the best, not just in South Africa, but the world over. We had runners producing world best times. But now, I think as legends are a little to blame because we have sat back and not gotten involved in the sport.”

He is directly involved through the Fortress Running Series and he is excited that this weekend’s race is being hosted in his hometown.

“Sterskspruit is special for me because this is where I got the blessings to be the top athlete I went on to become,” the man who won three gold medals at the Two Oceans gushes “By bringing the race here, I believe I am taking that blessing which I had back to where the seed was planted. I am back to look for that seed and help to grow it and thanks to the support of Fortress we are able to give these youngsters an opportunity to run in organized races.”

Entry forms are available at the Sterkspruit Mall run by Fortress and runners can also 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. The Eastern Cape Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture has sponsored the prize money for this race and with the total prize pool up for grabs for the 21.1km and 10km races being a cool R80,000.

By Matshelane Mamabolo