Niandi Carmont who has done several interviews for ahotu Marathon went back to South Africa last month to run Comrades Marathon for the 14th time. As she went with her friend Leslie who ran for the first time, we thought it would be interesting to confront their take on the race in a series of articles.
The first article briefly presents the race. In the second article, Niandi interviews Leslie about her first barefoot run at Comrades. And in the third, it’s Leslie’s turn to interview Niandi about the race .
The Comrades Marathon is an ultra-marathon of approximately 89 km (approx. 56 miles) which is run annually in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It is the world’s largest and oldest ultra-marathon race. The direction of the race alternates each year between the up run (87 km) starting from Durban and the down run (89 km) starting from Pietermaritzburg.
The Comrades route is best described by the Big Five Hills. The order of these hills is Polly Shorts, Inchanga, Botha’s Hill, Fields Hill, Cowies Hill.
The start is usually a festive occasion with loud music and up to 18, 000 runners impatiently waiting in their seeding batches for the start. It’s always the same ritual – Chariots of Fire across the loud-speakers as the crowd falls silent, the Max Trimborn cockrow, a cannon shot, a big cheer and the runners surge forward into the night to cover the mythical distance separating Pietermaritzburg and Durban on the coast.
The down run contains a lot of uphill running too.
Runners over the age of 20 qualify when they are able to complete an officially recognized marathon in under five hours. During the event an athlete must also reach five cut-off points in specified times to complete the race.
Athletes currently have 12 hours to complete the course. There are a number of cut-off points along the routes which runners must reach by a prescribed time or be forced to retire from the race. A runner who has successfully completed nine marathons wears a yellow number, while those who have completed ten races wear a green number, permanently allocated to the runner for all future races.
Medals are awarded to all runners completing the course in under 12 hours. Medals are currently awarded as follows:
The Comrades was run for the first time on 24 May 1921, and with the exception of a break during World War II, has been run every year since.
The race was the idea of World War I veteran Vic Clapham, to commemorate the South African soldiers killed during the war. Clapham, who had endured a 2,700-kilometre route march through German East Africa, wanted the memorial to be a unique test of the physical endurance of the entrants.