Double amputee gets award
Sat, 06 Oct 2007
Richard Whitehead the double amputee from England who finished this year’s Comrades marathon in an astonishing 9 Hours 54 minutes and 19 seconds was the star of last night’s Harmony Spirit of Comrades Awards Night held in Durban on Friday night.
The 31 year old Whitehead, who was flown out for the occasion, stunned competitors and spectators during this year’s race with his courage and determination that saw his rotational striding action take him into 4156th position, placing him amongst the top third of the field.
Whitehead, who is the first overseas athlete to receive the prestigious award, took over five hours when he ran his first marathon in New York in 2004, but his Comrades performance was the equivalent of a four hour marathon. He improved his marathon time to 3 hours 52 minutes 58 seconds in this years London marathon, the fastest ever run by a double amputee.
Whitehead whose motto is “Life without Limitations” has also completed the Two Oceans Marathon and represented Great Britain at Cricket, swimming, and the paralympic events.
Paul Selby, the founder of the 1000 kilometre challenge and the Fit for Life 2000 club, was also honoured with the Spirit of Comrades award, for his ambassadorial role as well as his selflessness in assisting runners to achieve their road running goals.
The Gauteng-based runner raised over R200 000 for cancer in 1999 by running a back to back Comrades starting from Durban at 7pm the night before the official down-run race and finishing back in Durban before the then 11-hour cut-off the following day.
Selby, who has 23 Comrades medals, is perhaps better known amongst the mass of runners for the support and encouragement he offers to strugglers towards the back of marathons to achieve their goals. It was while helping a fellow club-mate in 1996 that he failed to reach the half-way cut off time, his only failure to finish in 24 years.
Over the past years, Selby’s company has produced the finisher’s medals the Comrades as well as a number of international marathons where he promotes and markets the Comrades race to foreign runners. The third recipient of the award was Val Wilkinson, a founding and active member of the Rocky Road Runners in Johannesburg since 1979, who has been a technical official at the Comrades marathon over the past 12 years.