Veteran road runner and oldest finisher of Comrades Marathon in 2003 dies

18 January 2019 - 07:00 By TimesLIVE
Runners finishing the gruelling Comrades Marathon.
Runners finishing the gruelling Comrades Marathon.

The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has expressed “sadness” at the death of veteran roadrunner Zebulon Luhabe, who was the oldest finisher and the last runner to cross the finish line in the gruelling 89km ultra-marathon in 2003.

The CMA has described Luhabe, who died at the age of 92, as a Comrades Marathon personality who served as a role model to so many in his community in East London in the Eastern Cape.

A retired policeman, Luhabe took up running at the age of 56 and ran for the Real Gijimas Running Club.

His age never deterred him from passionately pursuing his new hobby and by the age of 62, Luhabe was ready to attempt his first Comrades Marathon. While he did not finish in the allotted 11 hours at the time, he was determined to come back and try again. On his 11th attempt, at the age of 76, he managed to successfully complete the ultimate human race.

The CMA said Luhabe committed himself “wholeheartedly to encouraging the youth to take up healthy lifestyle choices and into his 90s was still running and inspiring his community”.

His tenacity, resilience and commitment to the Comrades Marathon saw him being awarded the Spirit of Comrades Award in 2004. Luhabe inspired many people with his love for long-distance running and his determination to earn the coveted Comrades medal.

CMA chairperson Cheryl Winn said: “Coming in as the oldest man to finish in 2003, Mr Luhabe was also astonishingly the last man home, crossing the finish line just before the gun was fired. He was a wonderful man who was an inspiration and a source of motivation to so many.”

She added: “Zeb personified courage and determination to achieve what he had initially set out to do in 1989 and created a very exciting end to the Comrades Marathon of 2003. He will always be a ray of light in the running fraternity. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and the running community at large. He will missed.”

CMA board member Isaac Ngwenya said: “Zeb Luhabe was an amazing man who epitomised the true spirit of the Comrades Marathon, and was a living example of dedication, discipline and commitment. He loved running and dedicated himself to conquering the ultimate human race. The impact that he had on the youth and athletes all over the country was inspiring. We wish the family strength during this trying time.”

The old war horse also ran the Soweto Marathon a number of times since he started long-distance running in 1981 after he retired from the East London municipal bus service.

His memorial service will take place in East London this weekend and more details will be communicated in due course.