A legion of 217 athletes running under the banner of the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) joined a strong contingent of over 17 000 ultra-distance athletes who participated in the 96th instalment of the Comrades Marathon on Sunday, 11 June 2023.
Organised under the theme: ‘This Is It! Ziyasha!’ the 48th Comrades Marathon Down Run from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall to Hollywoodbets Kingsmead Stadium in Durban proved to be an enthralling affair from start to finish. Dubbed the ‘ultimate human race’, the Comrades Marathon epitomises attributes of courage, commitment and camaraderie that transcends cultural, racial, gender, socio-economic and age barriers. Athletes set off at dawn with a dogged determination to conquer the race distance of 87.701 kilometres.
Over the years, DCS has been an integral part of the race and it was no different this year as the departmental choir participated during opening of the 3-day Comrades Expo at the Durban Exhibition Centre on 08 June 2023. The DCS exhibition stall went on to claim the coveted Bronze Award for outstanding exhibition.
On the eve of the race, the Department hosted a pasta dinner at Protea Hotel by Marriot Karridene Beach, where National Commissioner, Makgothi Thabakgale conveyed a message of support to the athletes. “We were with our runners at the DCS water point which was 18km from the starting line; our runners were excited and showed good strength hence the results they attained,” said Commissioner Thobakgale.
“What is very pleasing with our top runners is that they improved their finishing times from last year’s race, which means that they are dedicated, and they prepared very well coming into the race. It also shows the kind of support that we give them as a department. We give them time to practice as they prepare for the race, and provided them with the support they need to enhance their performance,” enthused Commissioner Thobakgale.
He said that the support provided to the athletes shows that DCS is a department that cares and takes the health and wellness of its employees seriously. “We want our employees to live longer and to be healthy; we want them to be productive and ultimately, we want them to be happy. We have been with them throughout the journey, and we are very proud and happy with their achievements,” he said.
Blessing Mbusiseni Yaka from Modderbee Management Area, Gauteng Region was the best DCS runner for the second year running. He crossed the finish line in an impressive time of 6:55:19. He was followed in close second by Syabonga Nyawo from Durban Management Area, KwaZulu-Natal Region, who finished the race in 6:58:30.
Reflecting on the gruelling race, Yaka said even though he was running his second Comrades, he found the race quite challenging but was pleased with his performance. “I’m relatively happy with my finishing time even though I have identified areas of improvement. I improved compared to my time last year, but I believe I can still improve and do even better,” he said. Yaka attributed his achievement to regular training and remaining disciplined.
Syabonga Nyawo thanked the department for the support provided to the athletes running under its banner. “I was running my 8th race today and I am pleased with my finishing time.
In the female category, Ziphindile Dlamini from Witbank Management Area in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West region, who was taking part in her 7th Comrades retained the crown of being the best DCS female runner for the second year running as she crossed the finishing line in a time of 8:41:54. “I am very happy because this is my first Bill Rowan medal (7hrs 30 minutes to sub 9hrs 00 minutes). I normally get Robert Mtshali (9hrs 00min to sub 10hrs 00min); It’s a very good improvement,” said gleeful Dlamini. She conveyed her appreciation to DCS management and officials, led my Commissioner Thobakgale, who came in droves to support them during the race.
DCS top three runners are as follows: