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Gandhi run but runners unaware

Participants in the Mahatma Gandhi run in Johannesburg could not answer questions about Gandhi.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2006 11:06 IST

A run and walk meet in remembrance of Mahatma Gandhi here attracted more than 2,000 participants, but none of the finishers could answer any basic questions posed to them about the man and his legacy to South Africa.

The first Mahatma Gandhi Remembrance Run and Walk, organised jointly by the Daxina Striders Athletic Club and the Oriental Plaza in the suburb of Fordsburg here Sunday, was participated by more than 2,000 runners and walkers of all ages in different categories.

But there was a somewhat ironic twist to the objective of the race, which took runners past various historic sites associated with Gandhi's tenure in Johannesburg at the turn of the 19th century, when he practiced law in the city.

From a random selection of six winners of various ages, none could answer any basic questions posed to them by IANS about Gandhi and his legacy not only to South Africa but also to the world, as they queued for the medals and curry and rice handed out to all finishers.

"I'm a professional athlete and run every race I can, no matter why it is being held," said Joshua Mcune, who had come all the way from Pretoria, about 80 km away, to participate, as he shrugged off the question of whether he knew who Gandhi was.

Another winner, Mikaela Petcu of Alberton, also said she had not known about Gandhi's stay in South Africa before.

"But I have definitely been inspired to go and learn more by passing the historic sites during the run, including the fort where he was imprisoned and the mosque where he started his struggle for freedom for all," Petcu said.

Mohan Hira, co-founder of the Mahatma Gandhi Remembrance Organisation with Mahesh Kothari of Gujarat in India, said he was not at all disappointed about the lack of understanding about the great man after whom the race was named.

"We moved the race from where we held it earlier in Lenasia and Gandhi's commune of Tolstoy Farm to increase awareness of his association to other places in the city, and I have no doubt that we have succeeded in that campaign," Hira said.

Like Hira, Mohamed Patel, the general manager of the Oriental Plaza, the chief sponsor of the race, expressed the hope that the Johannesburg City Council would now get more involved in the annual race after the inaugural one had proved its viability and popularity.