The Comrades Marathon is an ultramarathon of approximately 89 km (approx. 56 miles) which is run annually in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa. The Comrades was run for the first time on 24 May 1921 (Empire Day), and with the exception of a break during World War II, has been run every year since. This first run was by Vic Clapham, an ex World War One veteran and other 34 runners, who initiated it as a reunion.
Clapham wanted to remember those who had fallen in the war by ultimate testing of body and mind, and triumphing. Sixteen runners completed the 87. 9km (55 mile) race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.
Comrade’s marathon is run 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 field is capped at 20,000 runners, and entrants hail from more than 60 countries.
The minimum age requirement is that an athlete must be 20 years of age on the day of the race. There are also qualifying times based on the race distance.
|Distance of the race||Qualifying time|
|42.2km (26 miles)||05 hrs 00 min|
|48-50km (30-31 miles)||06 hrs 00 min|
|52-54km (33-34 miles)||06 hrs 30 min|
|56km (35 miles)||07 hrs 00 min|
|60km (38 miles)||07 hrs 40 min|
|64km (40 miles)||08 hrs 20 min|
|80km (50 miles)||10 hrs 30 min|
|100 km (63 mile)||13 hrs 3|
Athletes currently have 12 hours to complete the course, extended from 11 hours in 2003. The race is run from “gun to gun”. meaning that the start point is not dependent on the time one crosses the start mat. As a result, runners starting at the back of the pack loose a few minutes of the 12 hours. The race start gun goes off at 5.30 am and the race end gun goes off at 5.30 pm.
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 less than 12 hours. Medals are currently awarded as follows: