COMRADES – MICK WINN HALL OF HONOUR

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August 2, 2017 by DAVE JACK

The Comrades Marathon Association honoured its Founding Chairperson by naming the hall at Comrades Marathon House in Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg after him. The Mick Winn Hall of Honour was officially opened by CMA Chairperson, Sifiso Nzuza on Wednesday, 2 August 2017.

87 year old Thomas Michael Winn, a retired pharmacist has been associated with the Comrades Marathon for well over 50 years. He completed 12 Comrades Marathons between 1964 & 1975 with a best time of 6:34 and a worst time of 10:52. He is a life member of Collegians Harriers and was the founding Chairperson of the Comrades Marathon Association in 1981. 

Winn served on the CMA organizing /executive committee for 15 years commencing in 1971 and for 12 years as Chairperson from 1974 – 1986, during which time the race grew from just under 1000 to just over 10,000 participants. 

Under his leadership, Comrades became the first major sporting event in South Africa open to men and women of all races.  He was associated with and/or personally responsible for many of the innovations which characterize the race as we know it today – including the abolition of personal seconding and introduction of refreshment stations, the theme song – Chariots of Fire, commercial sponsorship, live television coverage, the introduction of the Expo concept, and the decision to purchase Comrades Marathon House and initiate the Comrades Marathon Museum – both ideas he brought back after a trip to the New York Marathon.

After retiring as CMA Executive Chairperson in 1986, he continued his association with the event by serving on the CMA Board of Trustees consecutively for the next 20 years, during which time his chief area of responsibility was for the CMA charity portfolio from 1995 – 2006, initially associated with Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund 1995 – 1997, before introducing the concept of Amabeadibeadi, which became universally recognized as CMA’s own official multi-charity initiative.

Winn has long been regarded as an “elder statesman” at Comrades, and has on many an occasion been called upon to impart his leadership, wisdom and vision, particularly with regard to disputes and/or issues relating to transformation.  In 2014 he was elected as chairperson of the newly formed CMA Elders committee, a fellowship and advisory body comprising past leaders of CMA which was formulated to preserve and retain access to the collective wisdom and institutional knowledge relating to the history, traditions and ethics of CMA. 

Apart from his involvement with Comrades, Winn also contributed decades of his life to athletics administration at club, provincial and national level in South Africa.  He served for 12 years as Chairperson of the South African Road Running Association, during which time road running as a sport grew and prospered and South African road running athletes achieved world class competition and performances despite international isolation.  In fact, the sport of road running and its athletes developed and flourished during this period as never before or since. 

Under the period of his leadership the infrastructure of the sport was developed extensively.  Winn personally waged epic battles against the old SAAAU for the rights and recognition of road runners, including the awarding of national colours, previously reserved exclusively for track athletes. 

He was one of the main initiators and played an instrumental role in the transformation process in athletics, having joined other major sporting administrators in travelling to Harare, during the apartheid years, to engage in breakthrough unity talks with alternative sporting structures from within South Africa.

In his professional life, Winn was in business in Pietermaritzburg for 45 years and is a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of SA.  He was also active in his community and service organisations, served on the Chamber of Commerce Executive for several years and as a member of various service organizations.  He was awarded Civic Honours by the City of Pietermaritzburg in 1988.  He has a wife, 1 daughter, 3 sons, 2 step-sons and 14 grandchildren, 1 great grandson and another one soon to arrive, as well as an aged Rottweiler, a fat cat and another very pampered cat.

CMA Chairperson, Sifiso Nzuza said, “We are deeply honoured to officially open the Mick Winn Hall of Honour at Comrades House today. Mr Winn has contributed immensely to the Comrades Marathon Association and it is in this vein that we thank him for his input with this meaningful acknowledgement.”

CMA Heritage & Traditions Chairperson, Jeff Minnaar said, “I am honoured to be part of this meaningful exercise for someone who has been a mentor to me for nearly half a century. His knowledge and experience of the sport of road-running and the Comrades Marathon in general is phenomenal.”

2 August 2017

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