I’ve been writing about my Comrades training for a long time now and finally moved into tapering this week. But just what is all this Comrades fuss about? Over the next few weeks I will share some information about this great race.
The Comrades Marathon is the biggest ultra in the world with 14400 finishers last year, but it is much more than that. It is a race with many traditions and a part of South Africa’s history.
Here in South Africa everyone knows about the Comrades. If people hear you’re a runner there is only one question you get asked in South Africa…do you run Comrades? If you answer yes, they admire you. If you answer no, they think you’re a liar because if you don’t run Comrades you aren’t a runner. It’s as plain and simple as that.
The South African road running calendar is planned around Comrades. Marathons and ultras leading up to the end of May with shorter races after Comrades. A survey once showed that as much as 70% of South African road runners only run because of the Comrades. Just as you hear all this talk about Boston qualify in the USA, you hear about Comrades qualify in South Africa.
The race is very tough. It is about 89km (55 miles) long and run over a brutal course between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The direction changes each year, making it either an up or a down run. 2011 is an up run, Durban to Pietermaritzburg.
There is a strict 12 hour cutoff and the bulk of the runners finish the race in the last 30 minutes. At exactly 12 hours a race official stands with his back to the runners trying to reach the finish and fires a gun. That is it. Many runners have missed the cutoff with 1 second. 12:00:01 means no medal, no finishing time…DNF.
The 12 hour cutoff is gun time, there is no chip time. I will lose about 12 to 15 minutes at the start because I start close to the back. I work out my race schedule with 11:45 available to finish. The winners run between 5:20 and 5:30. This is when I hope to be at the halfway point.
The spirit of the Comrades is unlike any race or anything you will ever experience. It is truly unbelievable. I can’t describe it, you have to experience it. This is why the Comrades is known as The Ultimate Human Race…because of the spirit that makes the Comrades Marathon the fantastic event it is. I hope one day you can come and experience it.
Next post: Profile and description of the up run.
Have a super weekend everyone!