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​The first Run Free. Run Jozi marathon was a great success, with runners enjoying the strenuous route through downtown Joburg.
BY 7pm last night, the streets of the inner city were painted bright green as 10 000 runners took part in the inaugural 10km Run Free. Run Jozi marathon through downtown Johannesburg on Human Rights Day.

Desmond Mokgobu crosses the line toDesmond Mokgobu crosses the line to take first placeThe event, billed as making history, lived up to expectations. Ten minutes after the member of the mayoral community for public safety Matshidiso Mfikoe blew the horn to start the race, runners had formed a ring rounding up the CBD.

And the inner city community joined the party. They cheered the runners along the route – some from the balconies of flats, others lined up along the pavements. Motorists hooted as the runners soldiered on to the finish line.

Just 15 minutes after setting off, the top three men were already half-way, having broken away from the mob at the outset. Managing pace and speed was the winning formula in a route characterised by steep hills and slopes.

Desmond Mokgobu was out in front from start to finish. A tall fellow, he broke away from the crowd the moment the horn was blown – along Nelson Mandela Bridge, the first section, he was already a gap ahead.

Hillbrow hill
Despite the challenging route, he made it look as easy as a Sunday morning jog. A marvel to watch, if he were a car, Mokgobu would probably be Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari. He went up the third and most challenging hill between Twist and Kotze streets in Hillbrow as easy as you like, finishing the race in a time of 30:54:9

Not far behind was Sibusiso Nzima, who crossed the finish line less than a minute later in a time of 31:05:5; he was followed by Lucky Mohale in a time of 31:54:8.

Runners wait to take on the 10kmRunners wait to take on the 10km routeIn the women’s race, Rene Kalmer remained consistent throughout the race, and made it home in a time of 35:43:4. Second was Maxine Hein-Wacker in 37:36:2, followed by Nolene Conrad in 37:56:1.

The portfolio head of community development, Chris Vondo, said the marathon was a defining moment for the city. “This event has cemented Johannesburg’s reputation as a premier sporting destination that’s increasingly becoming part of the global sporting community,” he said.

The Nike Run Free. Run Jozi race, hosted in partnership with the City, had created a truly unique and memorable experience for runners and the community at large.

“By hosting local events with global status, we give meaning to Johannesburg as a world-class African city. Today, after all, is Human Rights Day and is significant to the international community as it has also been declared by the United Nations as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,” Vondo said.

Human Rights Day
Human Rights Day not only honoured fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives in the fight for democracy, but also acknowledged the progress made towards attaining basic human rights for all, he added. “This race has helped serve as a tool to unite people from all walks of life, and builds awareness of the City’s goal: for all residents to live and work in a safe, clean environment that they can be proud of.”

Oscar Prestorius was there to give encouragementOscar 'The Blade Runner' Pistorius was there to give encouragementNike South Africa’s brand director, Anwar Jappie, said the race was about embracing humanity. “This one-of-a-kind experience has allowed runners the opportunity to celebrate their heritage and freedom. And the right to take back the streets for one night … 10 000 people have been able to run freely, connect with and inspire one another by accessing a training zone that’s usually off limits.”

Present to motivate the runners was the blade runner Oscar Pistorius, who is gunning for both the Paralympics and Olympics later in this year. “This is your opportunity to shine; it is not only about winning. The mere fact that you chose to participate makes all of you winners,” he said.

Springboks player Ahswin Willemse also showed up.

At the end of it all the runners were treated to an after-party held at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown. The original Motswako originator, Khuli Chana, got the runners to dance, and 5FM deejay Poppy Ntshogwana was on the decks. The event former YoTV presenter, Cecilia Ravele, was the emcee.

Prize money for both male and female winners was:

1st place: R15 000
2nd place: R8 500
3rd place: R6 000
4th place: R4 000
5th place: R3 000
6th place: R2 000
7th place: R1 000
8th place: R500
The race route was drawn up to pass Joburg landmarks, including Nelson Mandela Bridge, old Johannesburg stock exchange, Luthuli House, City Hall, Carlton Centre, Jeppe Police Station, Standard Bank Arena, Coca-Cola Park, Ponte, Joubert Park, Constitution Hill, Civic Centre, Park Station, Market Theatre, Museum Africa and Mary Fitzgerald Square.

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