When the start gun goes off for the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon there will be one man who will have far more on his mind than the next 42km.
Thulani Sibisi, now 62, is a former Old Mutual Two Oceans marathon winner with a rich pedigree in the sport. At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics he was manager of the South African team’s long-distance athletes. He performed the role again 12 years later at the Athens Olympic Games. More recently he’s commentated on both the Two Oceans Marathon and Comrades.
Sibisi’s knowledge and passion for running are such that it is no wonder he has been dubbed “Mr Marathon”.
But all that is secondary to his great passion now: highlighting issues around prostate cancer after being diagnosed with the condition in 2012. The Old Mutual Soweto Marathon ambassador will be running to eradicate the stigma attached to the condition and educating boys and men on detection, prevention and treatment.
“We will have a Prostate Cancer Foundation stand at the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon Expo (held before the race) to raise awareness,” Sibisi said. “We are challenging people to donate and believe the departments of health and sport should get behind this campaign.”
“I have two objectives. The first is to finish my first marathon in 27 years and by doing so make people aware that even if you have prostate cancer you can do exercise.
“And I want people to be aware how the proper lifestyle can help: why early detection, exercise and a sensible diet are important,” he said.
He is passionate about the Old Mutual Soweto Marathon – he was one of the original founders – and believes that with hard work it can grow to rival events such as the New York Marathon and the London Marathon.
“For me, Soweto is one of the biggest road races in Africa,” he said. “There are not many events in the world that can boast a route that goes down a street where two Nobel Prize winners once lived.”
Sibisi saw last year’s return of Old Mutual as sponsor of the event as being key to achieving this. “When Old Mutual was involved in years gone by the event was a success,” he says. “Having Old Mutual involved in the Soweto Marathon means we are on the right track once more.”
He added that having Old Mutual as a sponsor had “made a huge difference in the past two years”.
Sibisi never won his “own” marathon, but he’s more than familiar with the surroundings. “This is an area that witnessed the writing of the Freedom Charter, which emphasised a non-racial society,” said Sibisi. “It’s special.”
Old Mutual’s Head of Brand Karen Thomas said: “We are proud to once again be involved with the Soweto Marathon. The route and surrounding areas are steeped in South African history and the marathon is itself a tribute to that legacy.”
“As such it is more than a race: it is an event where South Africans can unite in celebration of their past and the country as a whole. We look forward to being part of a special event,” said Thomas