Durban - The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) have unveiled South Africa's first ever academy for the enhancement of long distance running in Durban on Monday.
The initial one-year project will see the CMA invest close to half-a-million rand on eight athletes, with the primary focus on the education, skills and enterprise development.
"The CMA has prioritised its commitment to such meaningful initiatives and together with our sponsors and partners, aims to do all that it can to take road-running to new heights in South Africa," said Macdonald Chitja, a CMA board member.
Dubbed the SA Endurance Academy (Endurocad), the project was co-founded by Olympic medallist Elana Meyer.
It is made up of several other structures, one of the most important being the SACANRUN campaign, which aims to develop communities through education and skills development, improved health and wellness.
Both are national programmes with the Elite Academy being based in Stellenbosch.
Meyer, who won a silver medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, felt the campaign was an important step towards "building a new generation" of South African runners.
"With the slow degeneration of our athletics structures within South Africa, our athletes are suffering," Meyer said.
"We are aiming to provide such a structure and framework where the focus is on the development of South African athletes while helping with community transformation through sport and education around good health and skills development."
Meyer also hailed the performance of Lusapho April after his bronze-medal showing in the recent New York Marathon.
"Lusapho's performance is proof enough that South Africans do have the ability to compete against the best in the world," she said.
As part of the programme, Endurocad will be targeting athletes on a national level with an ideal split equally between male and female, 80 percent being black and all under the age of 30 years with special focus on women.
"We believe that sport will continue to play an important role in the sustainable social development and transformation space within South Africa," Meyer said, "in particular with respect to women and transformation, and taking children off the streets."