PIETERMARITZBURG – The 2016 Nedbank Green Mile was a magnificent and humbling community event from start to finish, carefully organised to give family, friends and spectators the opportunity to boost runners embarking on the final 26km stretch to the end of the Comrades Marathon on Sunday, 29 May 2016.
Approximately 8 000 spectators occupied the Nedbank Green Mile on Old Main Road in Kloof, lining the street, shouting, dancing and clapping to the music that filled the air across the mile, which was swathed in green and gold. Families and friends picnicked on the lawns and grandstands, with multiple big screen TVs keeping them in tune with live race action.
Like a well-oiled machine, 643 entertainers, all sourced from KZN, knew exactly what to do and when, performing across six zones strategically positioned along the 1.6km Nedbank Green Mile, dressed up in an array of costumes like Ninja Turtles, Batman, Superman, Star Wars storm troopers, and green morph suits, running up the mile encouraging runners to keep moving forward. Groups of traditional Zulu dancers, gumboot dancers, and professional dancers put on shows continuously for 7 hours, plus cheerleaders, larger-than-life giant puppets, lifeguards and more cheered runners on.
Throughout the day, Scottish and military marching bands, Durban Girls High School’s drum majorettes, DJs, live bands including Afritude and Afro Divas, plus the marimba and steel drummers from St Nicholas Primary School, performed on either side of the Mile and across four stages. It was inspiring and electrifying, akin to a magnificent Rio de Janeiro parade party.
“A vital, behind-the-scenes element of the Nedbank Green Mile is its commitment to supporting the local community. In total, 881 local people were employed to work at the 2016 Nedbank Green Mile, sourced from local schools, universities, small businesses and non-profit organisations. This included 643 local entertainers and a support crew of 238. In 2016, we had the best catering zone yet, with eight local SME vendors showcasing KwaZulu-Natal’s incredible flavour,” said Tobie Badenhorst, Head of Sponsorship and Cause Marketing at Nedbank.
For the first time in Nedbank Green Mile history, Comrades Marathon major co-sponsor, Nedbank, gave spectators the chance to send digital motivational messages to their runner heroes. These messages were directly linked to a runner’s number so that when they crossed the timing map heading into the mile, the personal message was broadcast to them on a big screen TV. This proved incredibly popular amongst spectators and runners and will be a feature of future Nedbank Green Miles.
A most magical moment at the 2016 Nedbank Green Mile was double-amputee, Sandile Mbili.
“Four years ago, Sandile, from Diepsloot in Johannesburg, lost both his legs due to a bacterial infection. The Jumping Kids Foundation helped him to get prosthetic legs. Inspired by Sandile’s story, and his dedication to learning to run again using his new legs, Nedbank decided to help Sandile to raise funds to help more children like him get prosthetic legs,” said Badenhorst.
Nedbank challenged Sandile to run the Nedbank Green Mile on a 1.6km Twitter Track made up of motivational tweets from the public. For every Tweet on the track, Nedbank made a donation to the Jumping Kids Foundation to help more paraplegic children get prosthetic legs.
Running the Nedbank Green Mile, was a huge feat for 17-year-old Mbili, who until recently, was wheelchair bound and couldn’t even walk. He ran a social media campaign beforehand called #GoSandile, which encouraged people to raise awareness and donations for the Jumping Kids Foundation.
“This was an immense challenge for Mbili who is still undergoing regular physiotherapy to help him walk, let alone run again. But he ran the entire 1.6km Twitter track with a huge smile on his face, with thousands of supporters and hundreds of Comrades runners cheering him on. Sandile’s journey is what the Comrades Marathon is all about – humbly achieving what once seemed impossible,” said Badenhorst.
“With all your support on Twitter I was motivated to go on and finish the Nedbank Green Mile in 12 minutes!” said a humbled Mbili.
This is the Nedbank Green Mile – community, passion, challenge and victory, all rolled into one.
“Thank you to everyone involved with the 2016 Nedbank Green Mile – the spectators, the entertainers, the support crew, the charities, the schools, the universities and the Nedbank staff who gave freely of their time to manage our water point. But most importantly, thank you to the real inspirational heroes of the day – the runners who make this the greatest race in the world,” concluded Badenhorst.