The Vincent Rakabaele Athletics Institute (VRAI) celebrated the 75th birthday of the late legendary Gabashane Vincent Rakabaele as part of their efforts to preserve his legacy. This took place on September 10th at Ha-Rakabaele in Berea.
Titled ‘the fastest man in Africa’ of his time, the African sports history-making Rakabaele was born on September 3rd, 1949, and died on November 2nd, 2003. To honour his legacy, VRAI unveiled his tombstone through the initiative that was informed by his contribution in athletics sport, both in Lesotho and South Africa respectively. The individual portrayed his undoubted dedication, resilience and contribution to the world of athletics and has left an indelible mark beyond the borders of Africa.
The Great Rakabaele was the first African to earn a Comrades Ultra-Marathon Medal in 1975 after the race was open to all non-whites. He first came to prominence in ultra-marathon events and was the first black runner to win the 56 km Two Oceans Marathon in Cape town, South Africa and competed with distinction in South Africa’s other classic long distance race, the 90 km Comrades Marathon. In 1976, Rakabaele became the first African to win Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in Cape Town.
He also represented Lesotho in the 1980 Moscow Olympics in Russia. Most of Rakabaele’s running was done 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. His best time of 2-11:44, set at the Inter-Provincial Marathon at Port Elizabeth in 1982, ranked him amongst the world’s top twenty for the year. He twice represented Lesotho in the Olympic marathon with a best performance of 36th in Moscow. He further participated in Los Angeles Olympics in the United States of America in 1984.
In the same year, he ran and won South African Non-White Marathon Championship, the fastest ever marathon on the continent of Africa, after the Legendary Abebe Bikila’s fastest time in Tokyo Olympics of 1964 and one of the fastest in the world, thus ranking him number 21 in the world rankings with 2:12:33.
It is worth mentioning that this initiative was endorsed by Federation Athletics of Lesotho and was made possible by Thari Mutual, Pootso Memorials, Total Sports Two Oceans Ultra Marathon, Studioplex Consulting, Mr. Thulani Sibisi and many others who wanted to contribute and play a role in celebrating his legacy.
People across Lesotho and South Africa were present at the unveiling to pay tribute to the star and his non-fading Legacy. His efforts and great zeal of putting his country forth among nations was promised a continual celebration and acts of appreciation.
“In Athletics, Rakabaele was regarded as Mandela out of Prison. He was running for struggle with a smile from ear to ear with the most extraordinary grace and dignity”- Bob De La Motte.