Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 164 December 2023 | Page 43


Heritage showed the excitement many felt about this new event , and the sense of excitement and enthusiasm was also clear as the runners disembarked in the harbour . Many commented that they were surprised to see how built up and developed the island is , with some being interviewed by the cameramen on hand to broadcast the event live on the SABC .

At the start , all runners received a bottle of water with a sticker that read , “ Keep bottle and redeem for a medal and snack pack at the finish .” This reduced waste on the route and also ensured that this World Heritage Site remains in pristine condition . After a run that criss-crossed the island and allowed the runners to see many of the sights and attractions on the island , each finisher received a medal and a snack pack containing a Coke , muffin , Wimpy warm beverage and a Milky Lane ice cream . Then there was time for participants to visit the Maximum Security Prison where Nelson Mandela was jailed , as well as Sobukwe House .
Robben Island lies in Table Bay , just under 7km west of Bloubergstrand , and around 14km north of Cape Town . It takes its name from the Dutch word for seals ( robben ), hence the Dutch / Afrikaans name Robbeneiland translates to Seal Island . Roughly oval in shape , the island measures 3.3 kilometres in length ( from north to south ), and 1.9km wide . It is mostly flat , with only a few gentle rises , and its highest point is just a few metres above sea level .
The island was initially used by the Dutch East Indies Company to stock animals to provide fresh food for passing ships , but was later fortified and used as a prison from the late-seventeenth century . This practice was continued by the colonial British powers , both for political prisoners as well as to house a leper colony , and the island was used as part of the defences of Cape Town during the First and Second World Wars . The South African government continued using the island as a prison until 1996 , for both political and non-political prisoners .
Today , Robben Island is a South African National Heritage Site as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site . It has become a world-famous , popular tourist attraction , and you can find out more about tours at www . robben-island . org . za .
Speaking after the race , Abigail Thulare , CEO of the Robben Island Museum ( RIM ), said , “ We are highly pleased with not only the turn-out for this historical RIM Memorial Run , but also the overall experience that visitors had of the beauty and intrigue of the landscape , and joining us in commemorating 60 years of the incarceration of both Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe . We want to further encourage the runners who experienced only some of what the island has to offer , to return for bespoke visits where they can truly unpack the multi-layered history of Robben Island .”
Echoing her sentiments was Western Cape Regional Manager for SABC , Kenneth Makatees , who said that “ The Robben Island Museum Memorial Run was an extraordinary event that fits in well with the SABC mandate to inform , educate and entertain . We are very committed to this , and hope to make this an annual event , and also to explore other initiatives with Robben Island Museum . Through this run we were able to create awareness about the rich history of Robben Island , and on the eve of our 30th year as a democratic South Africa , we were also able to remind the country about our difficult path to democracy .”