Brad Brown & Stephan Muzhingi
The 2011 Comrades Marathon was as successful as it has ever been, not only for winner Stephen Muzhingi, but for leading vehicle manufacturer Toyota as well.
From the starting gun to the exceptionally festive last mile, supporters gathered in thousands to partake in one of the most exciting events on the South African sporting calendar. As official vehicle supplier, Toyota ensured that the race organisers achieved an exceptional level of safety and professionalism, by supplying Prius hybrid lead vehicles and a fleet of other support vehicles. As a so-called full hybrid, the Prius emits minimal CO2 emissions and no other noxious gasses (NOx), thereby ensuring that the lead runners have little other than clear air to inhale.
Extremely disappointed at the news that lady number one favourite, Lindsay van Aswegen was unable to run due to an injury to the Achilles tendon, Team Toyota coach John Hamlet saw his remaining athletes off at 05h30 for the 86.96 km journey.
First to cross the finish line and 12 minutes off Muzhingi, was talented Gift Kelehe in fifth overall, a super improvement from his 14thin 2010. With a total time of 5 hours 44 minutes, Gift squeaked past Brian Zondi who placed a very credible 9th overall and only 7 minutes off his Team Toyota teammate. Placing third overall for Team Toyota men's and 16th overall was Lesotho-born Tumi Malefetsane, with a total time of just over 6 hours.
With Lindsay out, the Toyota women's honours went to Salome Cooper who placed 12th with a total time of 7 hours and 9 minutes. Julanie Basson finished a very credible 14th place with 7 hours, 13 minutes.
Team Toyota members continued to cross the finish line, with board smiles despite the agony. With every athlete finishing, Toyota most certainly did lead the way in terms of team performance.
Perhaps the most satisfying finish was for 94.7 Highveld Stereo's Brad Brown. Brad was unable to complete the race last year for Team Toyota, after having lost his mother two weeks before to breast cancer. Frustrated and bitterly upset at having to give up due to physical exhaustion and emotional trauma, the DJ was determined to finish this year. Brad has since lost over 60kgs and he has completed a half Iron Man before going into the event. Brad finally crossed the finish line with 20 minutes to spare - and like most athletes, was hugely emotional and utterly exhausted: "I am shattered, but so delighted with a superb adventure! It just goes to show you that you can achieve your dreams provided you are focused, determined and passionate," says a very emotional athlete.
"We couldn't have asked for a more skilled, dedicated and driven team to be ambassadors for our brand andwe commend each and every athlete who represented Team Toyota today. Toyota as an organisation thrive on teamwork and today we proved it," commented Leo Kok, spokesperson for Toyota South Africa Motors.
The Toyota redsockfriday UNOGWAJA 2011 challenge also turned out to be a huge hitright from start gun to finish line. People from all over the country tuned in to YouTube as well as the Toyota website to follow the progress of the four cyclists who pedalled from Cape Town to Durban, completing their journey by running the 86km marathon - all in aid of the five AmaBeadiBeadi charities chosen by the Comrades to benefit from the 2011 Comrades Marathon.
Adding to the buzzing atmosphere, Toyota organised an explosive experience at the last mile of this demanding marathon. Celebrity artists, DJ's, music and giveaways not only entertained the crowds but provided a great source of energy for the runners heading on the last stretch towards home.