We were sad to hear that the founding Chairperson of The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA), Thomas Michael Winn, passed away last week at the age of 90. Mr Winn was associated with the Comrades Marathon for over 50 years. He was also a Green Number runner. For those that don’t know a runner is given a number on a green background, which is called a Green Number when they complete 10 Comrades Marathons. This number is then owned by the runner indefinitely. Mr Winn’s number was 138. We remember his amazing legacy in this blog.
Mr Winn was fondly known as Mick as he served on the CMA organising and executive committee for 15 years. His role changed to Chairperson for 12 years from 1974. During his time the race grew from under 1 000 to just over 10, 000 participants. Another amazing milestone that was met during his time of leadership was the Comrades Marathon becoming the first major sporting event in South Africa to allow women and other races to enter. Mick’s leadership also led to the introduction of refreshment stations rather than seconding runners during the event. Other iconic things that the Comrades Marathon is known for include the introduction of Chariots of Fire theme song, live television coverage, ending the race with the firing of a gun, commercial sponsorship, the purchase of Comrades Marathon House and Comrades Marathon Museum, was also accomplished under his leadership.
In 1986, Mick decided to retire from the CMA Executive Chairperson. He then went on to serve on the CMA Board of Trustees for 20 years. During, 1995 – 2006 he focused his time around the CMA charity portfolio, initially associated with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. Mick then introduced the concept of Amabeadibeadi, which became recognised as the CMA’s own official multi-charity initiative.
Mick did not limit his efforts in supporting the sport of road running to the Comrades Marathon, and as a result, he was awarded the South African President’s Sports Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution towards the world’s greatest ultra-marathon. In 2017 he was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to sport in KwaZulu-Natal by the KZN Department of Sport & Recreation, as well as being honoured by the Comrades Marathon Association in naming its meeting hall at Comrades Marathon House in Pietermaritzburg, the Mick Winn Hall of Honour.
In 2014 Mick became the Chairperson of the CMA Elders Committee, a fellowship and advisory body comprised of past leaders of CMA in order to preserve the traditions and ethos of the CMA.
Mick ran a successful business in Pietermaritzburg for 45 years. He was also a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of SA and very active in his community and service organisations, including the Rotary Foundation for which he was awarded by Rotary International the prestigious Paul Harris Fellowship Award. The legend, Thomas Michael Winn, passed on, on the 24th of October and left behind his beloved wife Cheryl, 6 children, 14 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.
The South African, Bruce Fordyce, the record holder of the most Comrades Marathon wins (9 wins) shared this message to Mick, “So long Comrades Green Number 138. I will miss your effervescent sense of humour, your enthusiasm for everything you did and your warm friendship. You were a perfect gentleman. I am so sorry I didn’t hug you at the Comrades finish but I tried many times. With great love and respect #2403.” Mick was greatly loved and appreciated in the running world. It was an honour to have him a part of the sport we all love so much.