COMRADES MARATHON back-to-back winner and down run record holder Tete Dijana has made the long trek up north to Thohoyandou with the aim to inspire young and aspirant runners into chasing their dreams.

Dijana is among a handful of Comrades stars who will be participating in the Fortress Running Series Venda Run 2023 at the Venda Plaza on Sunday.

The three-in-one race will include the half marathon, the 10km as well as a 5km fun run and Dijana – a Comrades champion last year and this year  is the ‘marquee signing’ and will be running the 21.1km race.

ALSO READ: Venda Race attracts Comrades Marathon luminaries 

He announced his participation on his Facebook page to great excitement from his fans many of whom expressed delight that they’d be running with their hero while some wished him luck for the race and others asked him not to be too fast for them. 

The Nedbank Athletic Club runner who smashed David Gatebe’s Down Run best time of 5:18: from way back in 2016 when he ran a thrilling 5:13:58 back in June told IOL that he is not going to Venda to race.

“My aim going to the race is to encourage and inspire the young and upcoming Tete Dijanas. I am not going there to compete but to have fun because the race is all about development,” he said adding that he was humbled by the invitation from the race organisers ISMO Athletics Club.

TETE DIJANA TOUCH DOWN IN THOHOYANDOU

“I feel very happy and honoured to be a part of this race. I am excited to go there because I know I have fans.”

Dijana is not the only Comrades champion who will be lining up at the Venda Plaza on Sunday. Also invited to the race is 2019 winner Edward Mothibi who was on the podium this year (third) and last year (second) as well as multiple gold medalist and 2012 winner Ludwick Mamabolo.

Add to those names another perennial top-tenner and this year’s veterans category (40-49 years old) winner Rufus Photo who finished fourth overall and you can understand just why the organisers have given the event the slogan ‘a race worth running’.

Spicing up the line-up will be Johannes Mosehla, the 81-year-old Polokwane Athletic Club superstar who ran an incredible 9:26:10 to unseat the legendary Wally Hayward – a four-time champion – as the oldest man to complete the Comrades.

The fact that the race is organised by ISMO Athletics Club which is co-owned by 1992 Two Oceans Marathon winner Israel Morake who finished fourth at Comrades the year before

The lure of running against and with such Comrades Marathon luminaries has got the Vhembe running community excited and Morake says they are anticipating big numbers to line up at the start of the three races at the Venda Plaza.

The Venda Run is the first of four races in the Fortress Series. The other three are going to be hosted in Evaton (August 20), Sterkspruit (October 8) and Kleksdorp (November 19).

THE VENDA PLAZA in Thohoyandou will next weekend host the opening race of the Fortress Running Series organized by the ISMO Athletics Club which is led by former Two Oceans Marathon winner Israel ‘Izzi’ Morake and Olympics 800m silver medalist Hezekiel Sepeng.

Now in its fourth year, the Fortress Running Series aims to provide running opportunities for citizens who ordinarily do not get to participate in well-organised events.

ALSO READ: Limpopo runner breaks 34-year Comrades Marathon record

“We decided on taking one of the races to Venda because we realize that rural areas are often left behind when events of this nature are organised. The focus is always on the townships and the suburb. And we decided to try and close that gap, and we have been very fortunate that Fortress came on board to help us achieve this goal,” said Morake, winner of the 56km Mother City ultra back in 1992.

VENDA PLAZA RACE IN THOHOYANDOU 

Venda Run 2023 takes place at the Venda Plaza in Thohoyandou on July 16 and runners can participate in the half marathon (21.1km), 10km as well as a 5km fun run.

“We are going to Venda for the first time this year and for us this is a sign that we are growing, thanks to the great support from Fortress Retail who owns a shopping mall there,” Morake said.

Venda Plaza to host Fortress Running Series opener
Venda Plaza Race

The Series was launched with a race in Morake’s home in the Eastern Cape back in 2018 and has grown to be run in other townships around the country. Sterkspruit will once again host a race this year on October 8 while the other two races will be in Evaton on August 20 and Kleksdorp on November 19.

Venda will kick-start the 2023 series and Morake and his team will be at the Venda Plaza on Saturday (July 2) to market the race.

“Entries for the race can be done online (enter online) but we will be in Venda at the weekend so that those who cannot access the internet can enter manually. We are very excited to be going to Venda and we encourage the people to come and be a part of what we believe will be an exciting day of running.”

 Entry fees start at R60 for the 5km, R100 for the 10km, and R150 for the 21.1km races. Children under 12 can also participate in the 5km race for free.

By Sport Reporter