In a first for Africa, the official Marathon flame will be brought from the birthplace of the event, to the Weekend Witness Maritzburg Marathon at the end of February. The Marathon Flame is a symbol of the Association of International Marathon and Distance Races, (AIMS) and the Marathon movement worldwide with the objective of spreading the ideals of world peace, serving the principles of fair competition and promoting sports as a way of life.
Each November on the eve of the Athens Classic Marathon, the flame is lit inside the sacred archeological site of the Battle of Marathon Warriors Tomb.
The flame exchange program was initiated in 2007 by the organizers of the Athens Classic Marathon, the municipality of Marathon and the Hellenic Athletics Federation, (SEGAS), as part of the commemoration of the battle of marathon in 490 BC, which saw a messenger, Phidippides, run from the battlefield to Athens. On completing the distance, which was roughly 40kms, Phidippides had only sufficient energy to declare victory over the Persians before dying.
This was the inspiration for the introduction of a marathon event in the first modern Olympics in 1896 in Athens from which the thousands of club and city marathons have been spawned.
The flame will arrive in Durban and located in a special cauldron in Pietermaritzburg during the week of the Martizburg Marathon (February 26).
“We are extremely proud that the flame will be brought to our event,” said John Hall the organizer of the Weekend Witness Maritzburg Marathon. “This is a first for the continent, and symbolizes everything we aim for in our event and in athletics in the Kwazulu Natal and South Africa: Peace, Fair play and the ethics of sport.”
A four-member delegation, including Vasileios Sevastis, the President of SEGAS and the Vice Mayor of Marathon, Ms Stamatia Mylona, will accompany the flame from Greece where it will be handed over to Pietermaritzburg Mayor Councillor Chris Ndlela at the Lighting Ceremony.
“We are in the process of finalizing the details for activities around the flame, but this will be a unique opportunity for runners throughout South Africa to be linked with the original marathon of 490BC,” continued Hall.
Entries for the Weekend Witness Maritzburg Marathon, which for the last three years has been the most popular Comrades qualifier and attracts runners from throughout South Africa, are available on line on www.pmb42.co.za and close on wednesday 8 February.