he word Unogwaja is a Zulu word that means 'the hare', it is a word that was affectionately attributed to a man named Phil Masterton-Smith in dedication to his athletic ability. Phil Masterton-Smith ran two of the tightest contested races in history of the Comrades 54mile Ultra Marathon. In 1930 he finished in second place just a few meters behind Wally Hayward and the following year he became the youngest ever Comrades winner, at just 19, when he pipped the Noel Burree over the finish line by a few metres himself.
The history of Unogwaja really begins in 1933. Phil Masterton-Smith couldn't afford the train fare to the start and so instead rode a bike over 1700km from Cape Town to the start in Pietermaritzburg before running the 86.9km and finishing 10th. Unfortunately he died 1942 serving in the Second Word War.
This ultimate story of passion, willpower, courage and determination was mirrored by four young men who followed in the footsteps of Phil Masterton-Smith 78 years later; and the Unogwaja challenge was born. Team Unogwaja succeeded in cycling 1677km’s in 10 days from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg, and then running the Comrades Marathon, the same race as Lara Kruiskamp on day 11 wearing the same running club colours of the Natal Carbineers that Masterton-Smith so proudly represented many years back. This journey came alive & the Unogwaja team came together through Red Sock Friday (RSF), an initiative that shares its origin, like Comrades, in the aftermath of a World War, and is a global community of people who share a common passion for life, and wear red socks to remind themselves of this and the special people in their lives near, far or not there at all.
Crazily enough, the story of the red socks began with another War Veteran by the name of Sidney Feinson who got captured in the Battle of Tobruk (same battle Masterton-Smith lost his life) during World War 2. He and two friends made a pact that should any of them make it back alive that they would wear red socks to always be together no matter what. On sharing this story, McInroy and close friend Ian Symons gave each other a pair of red socks in 2007 when going separate ways, and vowed to wear them every Friday to always "be together" no matter where they were in the world.
The moment that the founder of RSF, John McInroy, heard the story of Unogwaja from Dr WP van Zyl, whom he was meeting for the first time, this special journey came to life. McInroy recalls at that moment feeling as if "it were written" to follow this path and follow it he did.
The story of Unogwaja Challenge and the red socks are both about following your heart, and that anything is possible if you dare to try.
The team will set out on May 23rd this year as they follow in the footsteps of Phil Masterton-Smith, reviving the immense feat of endurance that was shown so many years before.
Below is a video documentary of the 2012 event:
Hockey player and coach. National Hockey Umpire. Teacher at Fairmont High. RedSocker for Life! Unogwaja 2013 Team Member! Proudly South African!
Helping cool people doing cool things to tell their storyDurban, KZN
Passionate about running and biking. No challenge is too big if ur heart,mind and passion r in the right place. New to triathlon and paddling
Ageing @TK_Hockey GK, Aspirational adventurer and Northern Ireland/Ireland @TheUnogwajaambassador and team member
'Not all of us can do great things. but we can do small things with great love' - Mother Teresa
Running Foo Fighters and Villa fan!! One too many drinks and i get naked #Truestory #TeamUnogwaja2013 @TheUnogwaja #payitforward
On a mission to bring #ShoOops! all over the world and make every day Red Sock Friday @redsockfriday passionately @TheUnogwaja
Cape Town (mostly!) · http://www.facebook.com/iwearredsocksonfridays
'Keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward'
Journey of inspiration in honour of Phil 'Unogwaja' Masterton-Smith; 10 day cycle from Cape Town to Maritzburg followed by Comrades Ultra Marathon on day 11
Freelance 3D animator, ultra marathon and trail runner, adventurer, rugby fanatic... Go Sharks!!
Dreamer, adventure freak and digital whiz. Just completed a 5500km cycle tour through Asia! Love working for Women's Health. Red socker and 2013 Unogwaja!
Economist. Comrades Marathon Ambassador for Portugal. Green Number 48663. Running is my passion! Part of Team Unogwaja 2013!
The Team are raising money for a host of charities and have set themselves a substantial target to raise. If you would like to donate to the cause then click here.