On a fine and mild to warm Tuesday in 1921, outside the Pietermaritzburg City Hall, 34 runners began what was to become the largest ultra marathon in the world. Mention the word “Comrades” to any runner to see human emotion in its most raw form. From triumph to disappointment, frustration to pride, there is reason why the 89 km between Pietermaritzburg and Durban is called the ultimate human race.
Why is it called an ultra marathon? For the non-runners, a marathon measures a distance of 42.2 kilometres, with anything exceeding that constituting as an ultra marathon. The thing about Comrades is that it is basically two marathons back to back, with a few more kilometres left over for dessert!
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Why would anyone want to do that?”. Well, simply put, the handful of Comrades runners I’ve spoken to say that the race calls them, they feel the need to do it. This is what gets them through the early mornings, hard training sessions and all the sacrifice it takes to put in the number of kilometres required to finish the race within the 12-hour cut off time.
The 2017 edition of the race saw South African Bongmusa Mthembu win the coveted Comrades gold medal (5h 35m 34s), while Charne Bosman (6h 39m 51s), the first female South African to cross the line, took the bronze.
To put those finish times in perspective, Bongmusa and Charne held an average pace of 3:53 min/km and 4:29 min/km respectively for 89 km. INCREDIBLE!
The runners are justifiably the the main attention grabbers, but a key factor in their success is often overlooked. All the husbands, wives, partners, children, friends, family and other support-system members deserve a lot of credit when their runner crosses the line. Without their efforts most runners wouldn’t get to the start of the race!
Make the final preparations for the start of the 2018 Comrades Marathon on 10 June by maximizing recovery with foam rollers, stretching mats and post-run recovery nutrition. For those inspired to start running, you will find a range of running shoes, shorts and T-shirts available on bidorbuy!
Again, best of luck and enjoy the moment!