Prisoners run for Madiba

2011-07-15 16:09

Pretoria - To celebrate Mandela Day, prisoners from Pretoria Central Prison will be pulling on their running shoes and sweating it out by running the equivalent of the 50km Bonitas City2City Ultra-Marathon plus an additional 17kms. The twelve prisoners kick off their 67km race at 8:30am on Thursday, 21 July on treadmills at the prison.

The number ‘67’ is symbolic because it is the first part of Nelson Mandela’s 67-4-4664 prison number on Robben Island.

“The runners felt they would run the extra 17 kilometres in recognition of Madiba,” says the runners’ coach and former Comrades Marathon winner, Nick Bester.

Bester has supported the running team at the prison for more than ten years, alongside the team’s chairman Wolfram Abbott, nephew of boxing legend Jimmy Abbott.  Most of the runners only began running once they were in prison and Bester coaches them regularly, often by telephone.  He has seen firsthand how running has become an important part of the prisoners’ daily lives and rehabilitation.

“These guys have been training for many months in preparation for this event,” says Bester.  “Their days revolve around the training and it’s also an incentive for them to stay healthy and avoid behaviour which could impact their performance, such as smoking.”

The runners will be joined by a selection of top athletes from Bonitas Team Elite and the Nedbank Running Club.  Professionals on the tarmac, these athletes will test their skills against the Pretoria Central Prison team on treadmills.

The team trains on a 200 metre route inside the prison walls and more recently on treadmills donated by private individuals.  Bester also supplies them with running gear, including shoes.
The Pretoria Central Prison athletes also recently completed the Two Oceans 56km marathon, also on treadmills.  The runner with the best time clocked in at 4hrs05, missing a silver medal by just five minutes.

“Anyone can make a mistake and these prisoners are serving lengthy prison terms for their crimes,” he says.  “Running provides an outlet for them and it is part of the rehabilitation process, giving them some hope for the future.”

Bester says running on treadmills for long distances can be tiring and difficult, “but it’s the best alternative for the prison team to being out there and running the actual marathon.”

The Bonitas City2City Ultra-Marathon, which attracts thousands of passionate local and international runners, follows a gruelling 50km route between Pretoria and Johannesburg.  This year the event will take place on 18 September 2011.

Bester says the prison runners are looking forward to completing their Mandela Day challenge and setting some new Personal Bests.


  • jock - 2011-07-15 16:25

    they should do well considering all the practice they have had running from the police

  • Gorilla - 2011-07-15 16:27

    Ag please man. I'm so sick of all this Mandela stuff already. Great man, Great achievement, but hell it's enough already.

      Rick - 2011-07-15 17:15

      I do agree with you...BUT... Just try for a moment to try and contemplate what he has done. And contemplate how much he had to go through. Just a thought...

  • gerhardt.fouche - 2011-07-16 09:03

    Well done Nick Bester. True servant of SA Road Running.

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