The Konica Minolta South Africa sponsorship of the popular Gauteng-based Konica Minolta Jackie Mekler Road Race saw a record 11th year of support. The race was named to commemorate legendary Comrades runner Jackie Mekler, who dominated the event between 1953 and 1969. Konica Minolta South Africa is a division of Bidvest Office (Pty) Ltd.
More than 2600 runners participated in this year’s 10/25km run, with almost 1200 finishers in the 10km race and around 1500 in the 25km race, which both began at Pretoria Military Sports Club.
Mekler, who was once again in attendance on the day, is still one of only five people to have won the Comrades five times (the others are Arthur Newton, Hardy Ballington, Wally Hayward and Bruce Fordyce). He is also the only great Comrades runner of the race’s very early days still alive today, with the likes of Arthur Newton, the first to win the comrades five times from 1922 to 1927, Hardy Ballington in the 1930s, and Wally Hayward, who made the race his own in the 1950s, now deceased.
Aside from winning 10 gold medals, Mekler was also the first to make it across the Comrades finish line in less than six hours in 1963. The Jackie Mekler Road Race has been organised for the past 31 years by the Pretoria Military Marathon Club, which remains a primary sponsor today.
Originally, Mekler had an ultramarathon named after him in the spirit of commemorating some of the greats in Comrades history, including Bruce Fordyce and Alan Robb. Mekler’s race was originally organised and sponsored by the Pretoria Marathon Club until it ran into logistical difficulties in the mid-1980s after six successful events. The Pretoria Military Marathon Club then rose to the challenge, willingly becoming the new sponsor of the race, required however to reduce the distance to accommodate suburban growth in the greater Pretoria area.
Ritchi Smith, Konica Minolta South Africa’s national marketing coordinator, said, ‘It has given us great pleasure, since 2006, for Konica Minolta South Africa to sponsor this wonderful and well-attended Jackie Mekler Road Race, which attracts some of South Africa’s top athletes. We congratulate the Pretoria Military Marathon Club for another excellent event and as a company, we are humbled to once again repeat our association with one of South Africa’s running greats. It is particularly special for us to be associated with Jackie, as his own career outside running includes some three decades in the printing industry, ultimately becoming MD of Penrose Press.
This year’s overall winners for the 25 kilometre race were Tiisetso Ramokheseng (Colossus), who finished in 1:21:08 in the men’s race and Kim Laxton (RAC) in the women’s race, who completed the distance in just 1:41:00.
In the 10 kilometre run, Jacob Tseko (Tuks) and Leshan Curlewis (Waterkoof HS) were first across the line for the men and women, in 31:49 and 38:00 respectively. Leshan Curlewis was also placed first in the Women’s Junior Category.
Smith concluded, ‘The race is one that is much anticipated every year in the road-running fraternity and the ‘Pink Ladies’, who gave out water this year at one of the race’s water holes, were a popular feature and added a bit of fun, albeit in aid of a serious cause. Their pink outfits were to show support in the fight against breast cancer.’