This 90 km ultra marathon has been called the greatest in the world, annually drawing thousands of the world's best runners to South Africa's shores. The winners of this race can arguably consider themselves to be amongst the best ultra distance runners in the world.
The race is run every year on South Africa's Youth day, between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The direction of the race alternates yearly between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, and are respectively called the 'up' and 'down' runs. The distance of the race also changes each year with minor adjustments being made to the course, but it is always between 86 km and 92 km long. The race starts at 6am, and there is a 11 hour cut-off, anyone who doesn't complete the course by 5pm gets to go home with nothing more than a few blisters and the memory of the experience.
Created in 1921 by Vic Clapham, the marathon was intended to be a living memorial to all of his comrades who had served with him in the Great War (WWI). It was first run on the 24 May 1921 by no more than 34 intrepid souls, starting at the Pietermaritzburg town hall, and ending at the Durban Post Office, and has been run every year since with the exception of the so called "war years" (1941 – 1945). Since then, it has grown significantly, often boasting a field in excess of 10 000 runners.
The Comrades marathon is certainly one of South Africa's treasures.
In most cases, when a sports professional says they dont do it for the money, they do it for the love of the game, most people are tempted to spit out a venemous "PAH!" But in the case of the Comrades marathon, the prizes really dont amount to much when you consider that the Rand/Dollar exchange rate is currently sitting at about ten Rand to the Dollar, and because of this, I am fairly certain that most, if not all of the runners who take part in this event, truly do love it.
1st - R150,000
2nd - R75,000
3rd - R50,000
4th - R25,000
5th - R15,000
6th - R10,000
7th - R9,000
8th - R8,000
9th - R7,000
10th - R6,000
Men's "Down Run" course record -
05:24:07 held by Bruce Fordyce (1986)
Women's "Down Run" course record -
05:54:47 held by Frith van der Merwe (1989)
Men's "Up Run" course record -
05:25:33 held by Vladmir Kotov (2000)
Women's "Up Run" course record -
06:13:23 held by Ann Trason (1996)
Note: The prize for breaking any of these records is a 100 ounce solid gold statue of Hermes valued at around R250 000