The Peace Torch was once again a prominent part of this year's Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. Although the dream of lighting the Torch inside Mr Mandela's cell on Robben Island before carrying it from there to the start of the marathon was not realised this year, Mr Mandela's spirit of oneness and unity was strong throughout all aspects of the Cape Town Marathon event. Mr Mandela held the Peace Torch on 20 September 1998 in New York at a private meeting with Sri Chinmoy, the founder of the Peace Run. Their conversation went as follows:
Sri Chinmoy: May I request you to bless our Peace Torch that goes all over the world? This is our Peace Torch that covers more than 70 countries. It is our prayerful Peace Torch that goes all over the world with the message of prayerful peace. This is what we have been trying to do for the last ten years.
President Mandela: (holding the Peace Torch): That is so important. We are with you in upholding peace, which brings solace to many people throughout the world. It doesn't matter what language they speak. They appreciate peace. I think peace is one of the things that is going to save the world. Thank you, thank you very much. Well, thank you, all of you.
The Cape Town Marathon is the only IAAF "Gold Label" marathon in Africa and is also the largest marathon on the African Continent. The day of the marathon dawned bright and clear and the event officially commenced with Francois Pienaar, a South African rugby legend who captained the Springbok national team to World Cup victory in 1995, lighting the torch prior to leading a small procession to the marathon start.
Representatives of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Western Province Athletics, the City of Cape Town and Sanlam took a moment to celebrate the start of a momentous day, heralded so gloriously by the Peace Torch.
The procession began with a flurry of attention from photographers and a live national broadcast by the SABC.
The Peace Torch performed magnificently, burning for nearly two hours before needing to be refuelled.
At the end of the procession, the Torch was enthusiastically welcomed at the marathon start by South African running legend, Elana Meyer, and Cape Town's Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille.
Mayor Patricia de Lille and Elana Meyer then accepted the Torch from Francois Pienaar (this was to be the second stage of the Peace Torch's hallowed journey on this singular day)...
... and cheerfully carried it to an elevated platform adjacent to the start line. The joy and the friendship embodied by the Torch and everyone who touched it was both infectious and palpable...
As the Peace Torch arrived the 11,000 strong lineup of runners cheered and whistled in support.
Hands were raised in a peaceful salute to honour and acknowledge this special moment at the beginning of a momentous day for Cape Town and the whole of South Africa.
Special guests gathered on the elevated platform facing the throng of runners, including our team's Abhijatri Robinson and singers from a local choir, who sang stirring renditions of Johnny Clegg's Asimbonanga and Nkosi Sikelele, South Africa's National Anthem.
Final preparations for the start of the marathon began ...
... including a photo shoot for the elite athletes pictured here...
... until quite suddenly the start gun sounded and the runners were off.
The sight of 11,000 runners streaming away was a sight to behold.
After the marathon start, Elana Meyer carried the torch to the start of the 10 km Peace Run. She was stopped by so many people along the way wanting to have their photo taken with her. She never lost her smile or the tangible joy that she carried at any point during the whole day and was ever willing to have her photo taken with anyone who asked.
Elana Meyer is great friend of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run and is a true ambassador for peace, especially in her much loved world of running. She still holds eight current South African distance running records, including the marathon, in which she ran a stellar time of 2:25:15 in the 1994 Boston Marathon.
While final preparations were made for the start of the 10 km "Peace Run" race, the Torch was passed around by members of our team. Here Jermaine Craig of Independent Media in Johannesburg is seen holding the torch with Shree Chirkoot and Abhijatri Robinson.
Good friends of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, Talia and Jarred, also offered their goodwill. Jarred ran in this year's 10 km "Peace Run" race, representing the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run.
The Peace Torch soon became a focal point for the media, as it was held by Francois Pienaar and Elana Meyer with many different celebrities and friends.
Here, Councillor Shane Ramsay (left) and Alderman JP Smith (2nd left) of the City of Cape Town hold the torch with Elana Meyer (centre) and Francois Pienaar, as well as Deshun Deysel (2nd from right), South African mountaineering legend and Allen Barnes (right), Western Province Athletics Board member.
Here runners and celebrities shape their hands into the form of dove, a unique peace salute honouring the spirit of this special day.
In this photo, Francois Pienaar, Cape Town Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille, Deputy Minister of Sport Gert Oosthuizen and Luzuko Koti of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, come together to offer their goodwill for peace.
All of this was watched by the runners, some happy and relaxed, others...
...serious and focused.
More peace doves on the elevated platform with the Peace Torch centre stage...
Elana's smile and goodwill never faltered.
The setting for the start was spectacular, with Devil's Peak forming an impressive backdrop for the 10 km runners ...
This choir from Khayelitsha in Cape Town sang another stirring rendition of Asimbonanga.
The runners then readied themselves for the start...
... and they were soon off with the frontrunners setting an explosive pace.
Seen here is Janet Welham, race director for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon and associated races. Janet and her team worked tirelessly to put on a truly world class event.
Elana Meyer and Mayor Patricia de Lille enthusiastically cheered the 10,000+ lineup of runners in the 10 km "Peace Run" event...
The Torch was then carried to the finish area for the lighting of the "Peace Cauldron"...
Elana Meyer is assisted here by Deputy Minister of Sport, Mr Gert Oosthuizen and Mr Luzuko Koti, Director of Communications and Outreach at the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
They were then joined by these two young athletes from Western Province Athletics...
... and then members of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run (Penny Nam, Balarka Robinson and Shree Chirkoot).
... followed by Allen Barnes and Alderman JP Smith.
Finally, Race Director Janet Welham and her sister, Ruth, held the Torch on-stage.
We then took the Torch to the finish of the 10 km race and invited runners to hold the Torch and offer their goodwill for peace.
Young and old, tired and fresh, everyone was happy to hold the Torch.
We also had a chance to chat with Luzuko Koti of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and present him with Sri Chinmoy's book on Nelson Mandela.
And we met up again with Jarred and Talia following Jarred's finish of the 10 km "Peace Run" race.
Stephen Mokoka of South Africa took line honours for the men in the marathon in a time of 2:08:31, a new course record. He was given a hero's welcome by the crowd as he flew through the last 100m.
While 2018 Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist, Helalio Johannes from Namibia, won the women's race in a time of 2:29:28.
We also caught up with Australian runner, Ellie Pashley, who we'd met a few days earlier at the elite athlete's photo shoot. Ellie was delighted to have taken 4 minutes off her PB coming sixth in the women's race in a time of 2:31:52.
The Torch was then enthusiastically held by many jubilant finishers of the 10 km "Peace Run" race. The prize giving podium provided the perfect location for a celebration of this special achievement.
Next came the prize giving ceremony, where medals and trophies were presented for both the marathon and 10 km race.
The Peace Torch formed a special and integral part of the ceremony, with Francois Pienaar and Elana Meyer very ably and deservedly taking on the role of being torch bearers.
First up were the Women's Marathon winners. Here, third place finisher, Urge Sokoka Diro of Ethiopia (2:30:31), is given her medal by Luzuko Koti of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
In second place was Failuna Matanga of Tanzania in a time of 2:30:00.
Helalio Johannes, who took first place, is seen here with the women's trophy and the Peace Torch.
In the men's race, Philemon Kacherian of Kenya (2:09:13) took third place....
...while Albert Korir (Kenya) took second place in a time of 2:09:02 and Stephen Mokoka (South Africa) took first place in a time of 2:08:31.
Here celebrities and distinguished guests celebrate a South African win with Stephen Mokoka.
In the 10 km "Peace Race", the Torch was again held by the race winners. In this year's race, Irvette van Zyl won first place in a time of 32:49, followed by Joan Nyahora (33:55) and Carmie Prinsloo (35:21).
After the prize giving we caught up with another South African running legend and friend of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, Hendrick Ramaala. Hendrick is another great South African ambassador for peace and running. He won the New York Marathon in 2004 and is the current South African record holder for 10,000 m, 20 km and the half marathon (1:00:07). He is seen here with our team's Shree Chirkoot ...
... and then with Balarka Robinson.
After the prize giving was over, we headed out on to the marathon course to give the Torch to our most able (running) team member, Clifford Kian, for the final part of the route. We found him when he had less than 10 km to go, running at the front of the 5 hour bus.
Cliff was very relaxed and wasn't even breaking a sweat. He is a very experienced marathoner and decided to treat this race as a training run so that he could run comfortably with the Torch.
We left Cliff with about 4 km to go and he had already finished the race by the time we got back to the finish area.
Back at the finish area, we were once again fortunate to meet up with some other South African celebrities, prominent men and women who had taken up the Captain's challenge to run and raise money for charity. Pictured here is Chester Williams, star winger of the South African national Springbok rugby team that won the 1995 World Cup, who gladly took time out to hold the Torch and offer his goodwill for peace.
We also met up with talented radio presenter, Poppy Ntshongwana, and Deshun Deysel, South African mountaineer, who had both accepted the Captain's challenge, successfully completing the marathon and 10 km race, respectively.
Here Julie Warren-Codrington, a dedicated member of the marathon organising team, seen here with her son, takes a moment to offer us a well-earned smile after an intense day behind the scenes.
... and then again with her brother and husband, who had just finished the marathon.
Before saying our last good byes to another very amazing and inspiring Cape Town Marathon event, we had a moment to thank our special friend Elana Meyer, whose love for running is perhaps equalled only by her love of peace. Seen here with Elana, from left, are Clifford Kian, Balarka Robinson, Shree Chirkoot and Jeff Kian.
Elana graciously thanked us for sharing the Peace Torch with the Cape Town Marathon and its associated races and said that the Torch had added something unique and special to the spirit of this prestigious event. Thank you Elana and Cape Town for another amazing experience at the Cape Town marathon.