Mandela Day has come and gone, but in this centenary year the events and campaigns will continue for some time. Expect more social media self-promotion, corporate marketing opportunism and overworn inspirational quotes splashed alongside images of Madiba. It’s easy to feel jaded and resort to a default cynicism about the use and abuse of Mandela as a symbol. Yet, if you listen carefully, you can discern through all the noise those facts about his life that, however familiar, remain astonishing. For me, at first, it wasn’t so much a case of listening as looking. When 1,500 of us lined up at the start of the Rundela 27km race at the weekend, we knew the route would take us past sites of significance in Mandela’s career: the Old Fort where he was first imprisoned, on what is now Constitution Hill; Wits University, where obtained his law diploma; his house in Houghton. I only realised afterwards, however, that while we were padding through the morning mist still hovering over the icy st...

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