Comrades Marathon (Durban Central)
The Comrades Marathon: The world’s greatest ultra-marathon, 89 kilometres long, the Comrades is a South African institution, internationally recognised for the body-sapping challenge it poses and the camaraderie it fosters among its thousands of participants. Run between the capital of KwaZulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg, and the coastal city of Durban, the race alternates annually between the up run from Durban and the down run from Pietermaritzburg.
The race was the idea of First World War veteran Vic Clapham, who wanted a living memorial to those South African soldiers killed in the war. Clapham, who had endured a 2 700-kilometre route march through sweltering German East Africa, wanted the memorial to be a unique test of the physical endurance of the entrants.
The constitution of the race states that one of its primary aims is to “celebrate mankind’s spirit over adversity”. The Comrades Marathon first took place in 1921 and has been run every year since, except from 1941 to 1945 when it was stopped during the Second World War.
Forty-eight runners entered the first race, but when the starting shot was fired, only 34 had the heart to tackle the daunting task - not surprising when one considers that the course was tarred only for the last few kilometres into Durban.
A time limit of 12 hours was set and Bill Rowan became the inaugural winner, clocking 08:59 to win by 41 minutes from second-placed Harry Phillips. Of the 34 starters, only 16 completed the race.
Start: 05h30 at the City Hall in Durban
Finish: 17h30 at the Cricket Oval in Pietermaritzburg
Distance: 86.9km - 56 miles
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