” This 10 day cycle from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg to run the Comrades Marathon on day 11 is a journey of the heart inspired by the life of Phil Masterton-Smith who couldn’t afford the train fare from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg in 1933 so he cycled up instead and finished 10th in the race. He died in World War Two in 1942. His nickname was “Unogwaja” meaning hare in Zulu and his legacy lives on in the Unogwaja Challenge. Wherever you go, go with your heart ” John Mcinroy
This ultimate story of passion, willpower, courage and determination was mirrored by four young men in 2011, who followed in the footsteps of Phil Masterton-Smith 78 years later. Team Unogwaja succeeded in cycling 1677kms in 10 days from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg, and then running the Ultimate Human Race on day 11.This journey came alive & the Unogwaja team came together through Red Sock Friday (RSF), an initiative that shares its origin, like Comrades, in the aftermath of a World War, and is a global community of people who share a common passion for life and positive energy. The moment that founder of RSF, John McInroy, heard the story of Unogwaja from Dr WP van Zyl, a stranger at the time, the two knew this was a path they were going to follow.
This year, for the second time, 5 intrepid athletes are taking on this huge challenge. Inspired the incredible story of Phil Masterton-Smith, they are out there right now, on Day 9, with 1500kms under the belt already, heading towards Pietermartizburg and the start line of the Comrades Ultra Marathon (their final leg of the Unogwaja Challenge), which kicks off on Sunday morning, 3 June 2012.
This epic adventure has clearly struck a chord with the organizers of the Comrades race, because it completely captures the spirit of the event, plus combining one of the most amazing Comrades stories from its origins. Words from the organizers: “The Comrades Marathon Association is proud to be associated with the Unogwaja 2012 Challenge. The Unogwaja team show the true spirit of Comrades by their display of camaraderie, passion, courage and determination, while remembering the important history and tradition behind our great event. They have shown others that they can follow their dreams, any that anything is possible if you dare to try.”
So it’s hats off to John Mcinroy, WP Van Zyl, Paul Blake, Lourens Van Zyl and Miranda Symons who are out there pedalling towards a massive achievement. Averaging 160km per day 10 days in a row is a feat in itself, and to cap it off with running 89km is quite something. And for having the foresight to be raising money for the appointed Comrades charities like AmabeadiBeadi, Starfish Foundation and the Pink Drive amongst others. And never forgetting their incredible support crew who are out there working tirelessly behind the scenes, providing drinks, snacks, safety and support. and this includes the photographers and cameramen and editors who have put together many awe inspiring images and videos of this epic journey through South Africa.
Following it closely this week, it has reminded me so strongly of that most legendary of feelings: the old school South African road trip: at cycling pace, which makes you aware of everything going on around you. It gives you time to soak up the big skies, the mountain passes, the massive spaces that South Africa has so much of, to meet the locals, inhale the aromas and the fresh air that abounds. I could go on, but I won’t. I suppose my regular morning runs with John Mcinroy for the last couple of months have been having an effect. His bubbling positive vibes are infectious and to be honest I am feeling a twinge of jealousy not being out there with them. Getting on a plane tomorrow to go and run Comrades seems like cheating now. So big up to the Unogwajas. Massive respect. See you at Kingsmead in Durban on Sunday afternoon.
To catch up with the stunning visuals, videos and social media updates from this Unogwaja Journey, see links below.
To contribute to one of the various Comrades charities that Unogwaja are raising money for: donate here
Or just SMS “race 519” and your message to 42030 to donate R30.00