Masses descend on KZN as Comrades Marathon returns after two-year hiatus

Masses descend on KZN as Comrades Marathon returns after two-year hiatus
Gerda Steyn at the start of the 94th Comrades Marathon in Durban on 9 June 2019. (Photo: Anesh Debiky / Gallo Images)

The Comrades Marathon, which dates back more than 100 years, is back in full swing this Sunday after the previous two editions had to be canned due to Covid-19.

It’s been a long and arduous journey back for the Comrades Marathon. However, much like the resilience that is synonymous with its participants, the iconic road race is back in full swing for 2022.   

“It’s full-steam ahead. The organising committee has been planning this race for the past year. And it’s good that Covid-19 has finally allowed us to host the 95th Comrades Marathon after the cancellation of the last two editions,” the event’s marketing and communications manager, Delaine Cool, told Daily Maverick.

Indeed, the iconic race, which was first run in 1921 (making it the oldest ultramarathon in the world), makes its return to much fanfare. The past two editions were the first time since the duration of World War 2 that it had not taken place.

In 2022, athletes and running enthusiasts will once again descend on KwaZulu-Natal – the home of the contest – for race day on Sunday, 28 August.

South African stars

During the last edition three years ago, the “up run” (Durban to Pietermaritzburg) was won by South Africa’s Edward Mothibi. His compatriot and Olympian, Gerda Steyn, clinched the women’s title in a blistering record time of 5:58:53.

Comrades Marathon runners fulfilling a lifelong ambition. (Photo: Darren Stewart / Gallo Images)

Each will be looking to retain their respective titles in the 90km race, while also gunning for the “down run” record when they leave the start line at Pietermaritzburg’s City Hall, trekking to the finish line at Moses Mabhida in Durban.

Gerda Steyn hints at a Comrades Down Run record bid

Both the men’s and women’s records when heading to Durban from Pietermaritzburg are held by South Africans: David Gatebe set the men’s record of 5:18:19 in 2016, while Frith van der Merwe set the women’s record (5:54:43) when she won in 1989.

However, with a number of athletes from different countries offering stiff competition, it will not be easy for the defending Comrades champions as they gun for more history.

“Everyone is highly optimistic and enthusiastic about this Sunday. Most notably, the runners. But also, the organising committee, all of our supporters and the country at large,” Cool told Daily Maverick.  

Edward Mothibi wins the 94th Comrades Marathon on 9 June 2019. (Photo: Anesh Debiky / Gallo Images)

“We’ve also got 1,5oo international runners descending on South Africa, from 70 countries around the world… The top international contingent for the race this year is the UK, Zimbabwe, India, Brazil, Germany and the US. It’s going to be one fantastic day of road running.”

Mothibi is cognisant of the challenge that awaits as well.

The 94th Comrades Marathon gets under way in Durban on 9 June 2019. (Photo: Darren Stewart / Gallo Images)

“The race is going to be fast not just because a lot of us have become quicker, but there are a lot of youngsters now coming to Comrades who will make the race interesting. And don’t forget that athletes are very hungry due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Nedbank running club athlete told the Ridge Times.

No jabs necessary

More than 14,000 participants are expected when the start pistol echoes at 5.30am on Sunday. Cool said that despite initially having such a requirement in place during the early planning stages, with the threat of Covid-19 somewhat subsiding, there is no mandate for runners to be vaccinated.

“Initially the organising committee did want all runners to be vaccinated. That was obviously just to safeguard the health and well-being of all the athletes who are vaccinated,” she shared.

One doctor’s quest to make the Comrades Marathon affordable for all runners

“However, we have since eased those regulations. So, you don’t have to be vaccinated. But due care needs to be taken by all runners, supporters and organising committee officials.”  

The man and woman who finish in first place will each bag R260,000. Those who finish second will get R130,000 each. A third-place finish will earn R90,000. DM


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