Rakabaele, legendary road runner remembered




MASERU – Gabasheane Vincent Rakabaele, the first black athlete – a Mosotho to win an official medal in the coveted South African Comrades Marathon will be celebrated with a 21.1km half marathon from Teyateyaneng to Ha Rakabaele on March 7.

This will be the second edition of the annual race named after the athlete and hosted by the Berea Tourism Establishment Forum (B-TEF) in collaboration with Berea Athletics Association.

Rakabaele was born on September 3, 1949, and died on November 2, 2003, having etched his name in the books of sports history as the first black runner to finish the Comrades in 1976, also competing in the 1980 Summer Olympics and the 1984 Summer Olympics.

Apart from his 1976 Comrades feat, Rakabaele is best remembered for his two magnificent victories in South Africa’s other major ultra-marathons, the 56km Cape Town’s Two Oceans Marathon; a race that like the Comrades was opened to all race groups by the then South Africa apartheid regime in 1975.

The following year Rakabaele, after one of the most exciting head-to-head clashes in the history of the race, won it in a course record 3:18:05 beating a white runner Alan Robb by a mere 6 seconds.

In 1977 Rakabaele, not fully prepared, finished 43rd, but in 1978 he was second to Brian Chamberlain and in 1979 won for the second time to regain the record Chamberlain (3:15:22) had taken from him in 1977.

He clocked 3:08:56, winning by almost 10 minutes.
Rakabaele’s record stood unbroken until 1981 when, after a dramatic tussle between him and Johnny Halberstadt, the latter clocked 3:05:37 to beat him by 3 minutes and 40 seconds.

Nine years later Rakabaele won the veterans (masters) title in 3:18:10.

Before 1975 the country’s apartheid policies barred competition between white and black athletes without written government consent, black runners were participating unofficially in the Comrades.

In 1975 they could compete officially for the first time and it was in this 50th edition of the race that Rakabaele finished 20th in 6:27 (in those days the times of runners outside the top 10 were recorded only in full minutes).
In 1976 he was eighth and this started speculation that he could become the first black winner of the race.

However, this was not to be and the best he could do was fourth in 1977 in 6:03:50 – almost 17 minutes behind Robb.
Rakabaele also won the South African Marathon in 1976, 1979 and 1982. His 2:12:27 in Port Elizabeth in 1979, beating Halberstadt, gave him 21st position on the world list for the year (and third best African behind Ethiopian Kebede Balcha and Halberstadt).

In 1982 he won the Interprovincial Marathon, again in Port Elizabeth, in a career best 2:11:44. This time he was 20th on the world list, once more the third best runner on the continent (behind Tanzanian Juma Ikangaa and Kenya’s Jospeh Nzau).

Rakabaele ran most of his races in South Africa, usually representing one of the big gold mining clubs that supported elite black runners during the glory days of South African road racing from the late seventies to the early 1990s.
Among his other major marathon wins were the Peninsula (1980), Foot of Africa (‘80, ‘82, ‘83), Winelands (‘79) and Port Elizabeth City (‘83).

Rakabaele twice represented Lesotho in the Olympic Marathon. In 1980 he was 36th in 2:23:29 and four years later 61st in 2:32:15.

Road runner and representative B-TEF representative said as a fraternity they have been attracted to setting up the commemoration run because despite his prominence in national sports, nothing has been done to honour Rakabaele in the country.

“Even at his funeral, none of the athletes of his time were present,” Sello said.


“It is thus that we approached the Berea district business community to help us do something in honour of the great man as he hails from the Berea district,” he continued.

This year’s race is categorised into two categories, the

21.1km from Teyateyaneng to Ha Rakabaele where he was

born, the race will kick-start at 7 o’clock in the morning;

while a 5km developmental race will start at 8 o’clock – this

one is aimed at instilling a passion for athletics in

youngsters as well as talent scouting.

According to the organisers a 42km full marathon and

10km races is in the cards in forthcoming events.

The price money for the 21km race adds up to a M18 800,

the price will be awarded to the top 10 male and female

competitors, the race is open to athletes and there are no

age restrictions.

Among the participants will be Michael Rakabaele , the

brother to the honoured legendary runner.

“Since this is now going to be an annual event, we are

going to start advertising and marketing the 2021 race from

this very next month after this year’s event,” said Seabata

Sephachana from Berea Athletics Association.

B-TEF representatives have indicated that “as a component

of the ministry of tourism in the Berea district were not

satisfied with the rate of tourism attraction in our district, so

we brought this idea of a race to honour Ntate Rakabaele

as one way through which we can uplift the tourism

attractions and the economy of our district. In the coming

years we will also find convenient ways of improving

on the partnerships we have established.”

The event is sponsored by B-TEF, Blue Mountain Inn

Hotel, Metolong Bag Packers, Palace Hotel, Ka Pitseng

Guest House, C.R.A.E, Royal Rocks, The Stone and

Pyramid B.


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