Newly appointed Comrades Marathon general manager Keletso Totlhanyo has described the three weeks she has been in the office as a real eye-opener as she helps to organise one of the world’s biggest ultra races.
She comes on board as the popular KwaZulu-Natal race starts life without one of its long-time partners, Old Mutual, which opted not to renew contracts of all its ultra race properties, including Om Die Dam, Two Oceans and the Comrades.
Part of Totlhanyo’s scope of work includes sourcing sponsorship and overseeing the financial management of the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA), which is the holding company.
She has taken off at full speed as she and her team have already tied down two new deals – with a popular spring water brand and a beverage company – ahead of the race on June 9.
“I have just realised how big the Comrades brand is and that the project is not run by just one person,” said Totlhanyo, who heads a team of 13 permanent personnel, plus three support staff members at the CMA headquarters in Pietermaritzburg.
She said her experience of overseeing the Comrades’ 13-hour live television broadcast over the past six years would come in handy.
“People who work behind the scenes don’t normally get credit, and this team is really committed to the Comrades brand,” Totlhanyo said.
“That is why I am happy to say everything is almost ready for the race in June.”
THE ULTIMATE FOOT RACE Final preparations are under way ahead of this year’s Comrades Marathon, which will be run on June 9. Picture: Muzi Ntombela / BackpagePix
The former SABC sport and SuperSport production manager said her team would have the backing of 6 000 volunteers.
Matters to do with the runners are not within Totlhanyo’s ambit.
For instance, she didn’t have to deal with an ongoing matter on foreign runners, who must have their international clearances from their respective federations to be eligible to compete.
The stringent rule has caused panic among some, especially those who don’t belong to clubs.
“We have our race director Ronwyn James dealing with that, including the entries,” she said.
Registration for this year’s race was closed long before the December cut-off date after the entries – capped at 25 000 – were snapped up a few days after the official opening in October.
James is overseeing the substitution process, which opened a fortnight ago.
This has to do with aspirant runners who were unable to secure a spot in the initial registration process.
Runners have until April 15 to substitute those who have withdrawn from the race.
Substitution can take effect only on a like-for-like basis – a South African runner can be replaced only by a fellow local, while international entrants can be replaced by their compatriots.
This year’s Comrades will be the “up run” version.
The 87km marathon starts at the City Hall in Durban and finishes at Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg.