Unogwaja Challenge

Unogwaja Challenge






The Unogwaja team show true spirit of Comrades by displaying their passion, courage and determination, while remembering the history and tradition behind our great event. They have shown others that they can follow their dreams, and that anything is possible if you dare to try.



The Unogwaja challenge was initiated to follow the footsteps of Comrades legend Phil Masterton-Smith, who was known as ‘Unogwaja’ which means the Hare in Zulu.

Masterton-Smith was involved with 2 of the closet finishes in the history of the Comrades Marathon. In 1930 he narrowly lost to Wally Hayward and the following year in 1931 he battled against Noel Burree and crossed the finish line meter ahead and become the youngest ever Comrades winner at the age of 19.

In 1933 Masterton-Smith couldn’t afford a train fare from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg to run the Comrades Marathon, so he cycled over 1700kms from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg in 10 days. On the 11th day he ran the Comrades Marathon and came 10th.

Phil Masterton-Smith tragically was killed in action in 1941 by a mortar bomb, defending the Gazala line in World War II.

This ultimate story of passion, courage and determination was mirrored for the first time in 2011 by four young men, who followed in the footsteps of Masterton-Smith 78 years later. Team Unogwaja succeeded in cycling 1677kms for Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg in 10days and running the Comrades Marathon on the 11th day.  Pictured at the finish (see picturs) of the first Unowaja Challenge are : Paul Blake, Lourens Van Zyl, John McInroy and WP Van Zyl.

The participants from 2011 & 2012 all believe that Unogwaja should live on – “it is something that can become etched in Comrades history and we can look back one day on and be very proud, as no doubt it can have a life changing effect on many young people who take part or follow it, much like it did with us and the many people that supported us every step and pedal of the way. It is an event that brings to life the history of the Comrades in a unique way, and is a way of spreading the story and spirit of the Comrades to younger generations for years to come” – John Mcinroy.



The Unogwaja Team are making a difference in other people’s lives by giving back. Every pedal and every step towards the finish line of the Comrades Marathon was in aid of one of the six Amabeadibeadi Charities. Collectively they managed to raise a massive R500 043.10! 



2013 was the 3rd edition of the Unogwaja Challenge, and was the 1st challenge as a formal public event that anyone around the world can enter. The numbers for 2013 were kept low in order to test out the new format where 12 participates took part, increasing from 5 the previous year. The 12 represented 4 countries and included 4 women, 8 men and 13 support crew.