Comrades Marathon, the Ultimate Human Race
An UltraMarathon with a history and tradition comparable to the Boston Marathon.
An exciting journey of 12 hours, wether you run it or you watch it!
A true test of the human spirit. 88km of willpower, tears and glory. An honor to cross the finish line.
That’s the Comrades Marathon!
The Comrades Marathon in South-Africa is world’s oldest and largest UltraMarathon, run over a distance of 87.7 km
(56.1 miles), between the coastal city of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, the capital of the Kwazulu-Natal Province.
The race alternates yearly between the “up run” from Durban and the “down run” from Pietermaritzburg.
But even on the Down Run route from Pietermaritzburg to Durban there are some major uphills! The first 40K aren’t easy and most of the first 28K you’ll be running up.
The race was initiated by Victor Clapham, to honor his fallen comrades during the Great War.
The first Comrades Marathon took place on 24th May 1921, Empire Day, starting outside the City Hall in Pietermaritzburg with 34 runners. It has continued since then every year with the exception of the war years 1941-1945.
The Wall of Honour is situated along the Comrades Marathon route at a point where the road overlooks the Valley of a Thousand Hills, just after Botha’s Hill.
It was created to serve as a permanent landmark to commemorate the achievements of Comrades Marathon runners who completed this epic journey between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
Runners who successfully finish the marathon can purchase their own block. Their performance is memorized on an attractive plaque, which records the name, race number and status of the runner, which can be updated in later years.
Arthur’s Seat is said to be a favorite “resting spot” of Arthur Newton, a 5 times winner of the Comrades. The legend says that runners who greet Arthur and place a flower in his “seat” will have a good second half of the Marathon.
In 2016 21.532 runners were registered for the race.
The oldest finisher ever was Wally Hayward. He won the race 5 times and he was 80 when he crossed the finish line in 1989 for the last time.
Who can run the Comrades Race?
Coach Lindsey Parry: ‘Almost anyone can run the Comrades Marathon.
Effectively if you can do a training run comfortably at between 7 and 7:30 minutes per kilometer you shouldn’t be running into problems with finishing the Comrades Marathon.
If you’re a couch potato right now, you can win a Comrades medal next year.
It just takes discipline, consistent training, patience and commitment for 8-12 months to get there.’
The Comrades Marathon Up Run Route 2017
On Sunday, 4 June 2017 max 20.000 runners can take part in the 92th edition of the Comrades Marathon. Entries will close at November 30.
The race starts at the City Hall in Durban and finishes at The Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg.
There are not many runs in the world that require as much effort as the first half of the Comrades Marathon up run, according to Comrades Marathon Expert and Coach Lindsey Parry.
The UP RUN is known for The Big Five Hills: Kowies Hill, Fields Hill, Bothas Hill, Inchanga and Polly Shortts. The 1st 3 are all run in the 1st 40km with Inchanga taking you to 50km and Polly Shortts with a little over 10km to go.
You literally start running up hill straight away so you’ll need your energy and start smart and slowly.
There are also many other climbs like Little Polly’s, Umlaas Road and many other unnamed hills, in short the UP Run is an enormous challenge. It is important to prepare physically for the challenge and in so doing also prepare for the psychological challenge of running 87 odd kilometers from Durban to Pietermaritzburg.
How to run the Comrades Marathon 2017?
Hill and strength training is important, but pacing yourself right, especially in the beginning, will get you to your best possible finish time.
Comrades Coach Parry’s advice is to hold back the first 50K, but to keep moving:
“You must always move. If you always move, you never stop, your chances of finishing Comrades will improve exponentially.”
Coach Parry: ‘Don’t push the first half of the Up Comrades, it really will come back to bite you in the second half.
You can make up your time on the easiest section of Comrades, which is between 50-75km, Coach Parry says.
Walking ca 1-2 minutes every 10K during the race will keep your legs fresh. Walk even more on the hills.’
How to conquer the Big 5 Hills
The first 39K are the hardest, where you have to conquer Cowies Hill and Fields Hill and Bothas Hill.
Comrades Marathon Coach Lindsey Parry:
‘The route on the Up Run almost forces you to be patient and take the race as it comes.
The aim, as always, is to try and get yourself to halfway in some sort of condition that you can still run.
That, on the Comrades Up Run, means lots of walking. You need to take lots of walk breaks. The hills are going to make you tired. You can run them as slowly as you want to but they are still going to take their toll on you. The way to control this is with loads and loads of walking.
There are still some tough points in the second half of the Comrades up run but there are a lot more easier stretches with some downhill running in the second half on a very gradual gradient.
The theme is pretty much downhill until you get to Umlaas Road. Umlaas Road on the Comrade Marathon up run is at about the 23 to 25km to go mark and that it is the highest point on the course.
From there, again you have got really nice running, again you have a few little lumps but the overall trend is down.
Once you get over Polly Shortts you have 7kms of almost all of it being downhill.
Almost everyone who gets over Polly Shortts in their goal time will go on to finish Comrades because even though your legs are tired, on the up run they are not typically very sore which means you can run most of the last 7km. That means that your chances of finishing go up exponentially as you get closer to the stadium.’
Cut-off point times Up Run
Cowies Hill 02:40 (08h10)
Winston Park 04:30 (10h00)
Drummond (Halfway) 06:10 (11h40)
Cato Ridge – N3 Subway 08:10 (13h40)
Umlaas Road Interchange 09:30 (15h00)
Top of Polly Shortts 11:10 (16h40)
Final cut-off is at 12 hours (17h30)
The Up Run starts at 5:30 sea level, so it can be humid and the weather can change quickly. The temperature in Durban will be around 11 degrees Celcius / 52 degrees Faherheit, and can go up to ca. 30 Celcius / 86 degrees Faherheit with lots of wind.
Temperature on the Down Run can be around 4 degrees Celcius / 39 degrees Faherheit, and can go up to ca. 26 Celcius / 79 degrees Faherheit with a high humidity of ca 80%.
So it’s important to put on some extra layer (and gloves for the Down Run) at the start, and protect your head, eyes and skin with sun lotion, a cap and sunglasses later (Bestsellers like Venturi Julbo, Nike Tailwind, Oakley Flak Jacket or other brands).
Stay hydrated by drinking and cooling yourself with water on every station, and take care of enough sodium intake with sport drinks, bouillon and salty food.
You could bring some sachets of table salt like they serve in restaurants, to put on some cucumber, tomato, potato or to solve max 1 sachet in a cup of water in case of a cramp.
But too much salt intake at once can lead to swelling of hands and feet (blisters!), elevated blood pressure, or over-hydration if you get too thirsty, so don’t overdo it.
There are 48 water stations divided over the total course of 87.7 km.
Every station will have Energade, water, Pepsi, vaseline and arnica ice. Oranges, bananas and chocolates will be served from certain stations. Mega-Load will be served at three stations and will be clearly marked.
Potatoes will be served at every third station just before halfway. Biscuits will be served randomly in the second half of the race.
The supplied water sachets are to be used to hydrate and to cool down. Due to hygiene reasons, no sponges will be supplied.
There will be at least two portable toilets positioned at each refreshment station.
Nevertheless you might consider to carry your own water and/or energy drink.
Wether you choose a handheld water bottle, a bottle waist belt, or a backpack/vest with hydration reservoir/bladder is mostly a matter of trial and error and personal preference.
Favorite brands are Amphipod Hydraform, CamelBak, Nathan, Salomon, UltrAspire or Ultimate Direction, Orange Mud HydraQuiver Barrel.
Even if you’re well hydrated but you’re not used to this kind of climate, you might need to slow down and adjust your goals a bit, to keep enjoying the race and make it to the finish line.
Start and stay hydrated
How much water and other fluids we need during a race depends not only on the temperature, humidity and wind and how much we’re used to running in this kind of climate.
It also depends on our body weight, our gender, how much we sweat during the race and which medicines we might use before or during a race.
Try what works for you during your trainings, preferably among conditions like on race day.
Measure your weight and check your water bottle before and after your training to find out how much you sweat and drink during your runs.
Start your race hydrated by drinking water on a regular basis and especially the last days before the race until 2 hours before the start.
Slowing down when going uphill is a good moment to take in some real food like bananas.
General Fuel and Hydration guidelines for long runs from Scott Jurek
Consume 40-60 grams of carbohydrate for every hour of exercise. This range is provided due to differences in body size and individual needs.
The carbohydrate consumed can be in the form of an energy drink, gels, energy bars, fruit, or any other solid foods that are carbohydrate dense.
Consume 16-40 ounces of water every hour, depending on temperature, intensity, and individual requirements.
The water consumed may be in the form of a sports drink. However, if you are consuming calories in solid form in addition to your sports drink, be aware your overall ratio of carbohydrate to water intake. If you have a high carbohydrate intake, you want to include some plain water to keep the concentration of carbohydrate to water at 7-9 to allow for optimal digestion rate.
If using gels or foods for your carbohydrate intake, be sure to consume water, a minimum 6-8 ounces, following the carbohydrate source.
Include electrolyte supplements to balance sodium and electrolyte losses.
Include an electrolyte supplement that supplies 200-300 mg of sodium per hour (like Hammer Nutrition, SaltStick, Succeed S Caps, GI Products. Increase this amount if running in a hot and/or humid environment.
Extensive medical, emergency, first aid and physiotherapy facilities are made available by Netcare 911 along the route and at the finish.
Eight dedicated physiotherapy stations are positioned along the route, as well as a fleet of ambulances, rapid response vehicles and paramedics, including a dedicated emergency helicopter.
Make sure that you are adequately prepared to run Comrades.
Take care of your health and follow these basic principles:
DO drink enough
DO eat if necessary
DO listen to your body
DON’T run if you are not fit enough or not properly prepared.
DON’T run if you have been sick or on antibiotics in the three weeks prior to the race.
DON’T take ANY medication during the race.
DON’T be afraid to bale.
Take a preview of the Marathon course
You can join the Bus Tour to see the Comrades Marathon Race Route on Friday and Saturday before race day.
Supporters will not be able to move along with the runners during the race.
The best place for them to see and encourage you will be at the Nedbank Spectator Spot at the bottom of Botha’s Hill, 30 km from the finish, where runners need the support the most. There will be an eco-friendly Green Mile along the route with a colorful Comrades Carnival Parade, a Kids Fun Zone, Live TV report of the race shown on a large screen and DJ’s.
Nedbank supports the local community by giving all sales from food and beverage to local schools, charities and churches, and by organizing an interactive recycling program.
The Comrades Marathon Down Run
The downrun starts at the City Hall in Pietermaritzburg and finishes at The Sahara Kingsmead Cricket Stadium in Durban. The race distance is approximately 90 km and will be confirmed in the final race instructions.
From the top of Botha’s Hill it’s 39K more or less of downhill running.
Cut-off point times Down Run
Lion Park – N3 Subway 02:40 (08h10)
Cato Ridge – N3 Subway 04:30 (10h00)
Drummond (Halfway) 06:00 (11h30)
Winston Park 08:00 (13h30)
St John’s Avenue 09:30 (15h00)
Sherwood 45th Cutting 11:10 (16h40)
Final cut-off is at 12 hours (17h30)
You can find more in depth running tips and training advice via the links below.
Medal qualifying table:
|Gold||First 10 Men and Women|
|Wally Hayward||Position 11 to sub 6hrs 00min|
|Silver||6hrs 00min to sub 7hrs 30 mins|
|Bill Rowan||7hrs 30 min to sub 9hrs 00min|
|Bronze||9hrs 00min to sub 11hrs 00min|
|Vic Clapham||11hrs 00min to sub 12hrs 00min|
|Back2Back||Awarded to novices that complete an “Up” and “Down” run consecutively|
If the Male or Female winner of the 2017 Comrades Marathon breaks the Best Time previously recorded for the Up Run, he/she will receive R400,000 cash.
Fastest Comrades records ever on the Down Run and Up Run:
|Up Run||Record holder||Country||Year||Time|
|Down Run||Record holder||Country||Year||Time|
|Men||David Gatebe||South Africa||2016||5:18:19|
|Women||Frith van der Merwe||South-Africa||1989||5:54:43|
Other prizes 2017
- R10 000 for the first runner (Male and Female) to the designated position before Halfway.
- R15 000 for the first runner (Male and Female) to the Halfway.
- R20 000 for the first runner (Male and Female) to the designated position after Halfway.
The runner must complete the race within the 7 hour 30 minute cut-off in order to qualify for these prizes.
- Age category prizes vary from R3 000.00 age 60+ up to R16 000.00 age 40+.
- Team Prizes will be based on combined times of the first four club members who finish in each category.
- The first South African runner (man and woman) to complete the event will each receive R190 000.00.
- The first KwaZulu-Natal athlete (man and woman) to complete the race will each receive R35 000.00.
RESOURCES /FURTHER READING:
Reviews to inspire you and to prepare you for the Comrades Marathon race
I ran and completed the Comrades Marathon 3 times
Chris Aylen, proud finisher of the 2010 Comrades Marathon
South Pine Strider Stan Fetting completed the Comrades Marathon 6 times
My journey from my couch to The Comrades Marathon
My Million Miles and my Comrades Marathons
Robin ran Comrades Marathon 2011 for kids
How Megan Dale stepped up to the Comrades challenge in 2013
List of Random Thoughts: Comrades Edition 2014
Letting the world know we did it!
The pleasure of running the Comrades Marathon 2011
Comrades Marathon 2014 Television Report
Comrades Marathon 2014: results and pictures
Books about the Comrades Marathon
“Make Sure of Your Comrades Medal” by Don Oliver
“Comrades Marathon – The Ultimate Human Race” by John Cameron-Dow
Running for more than just yourself
More reasons to run or support the Ultimate human Comrades Race:
Runners have raised millions of rands for good causes since the race began.
The six official charities of the Comrades Marathon are the Community Chest of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, PinkDrive, The Sports Trust, Starfish-Greathearts Foundation, Wildlands Conservation Trust and World Vision South Africa.
The charities focus on issues of community development, care for the aged, health and wellness, AIDS care and support, the environment and sports development, to effect the intended meaningful change to those needy communities across South Africa.
The less fortunate athletes are given an opportunity to compete. For over a decade, the Underprivileged Runners Program has provided resources and moral support to these runners who would normally be unable to compete in the world’s biggest and oldest ultra-marathon and join in the camaraderie and enjoyment associated with it.
Wildlands Conservation Trust is responsible for all the recycling from the Comrades Race half way point to the finish line.
South Africa is one of the most naturally diverse countries in the world with magnificent landscapes and truly incredible biodiversity. However, it is also one of the most socially disparate nations of the world. We’re rapidly transforming and destroying our natural support systems as we struggle with the challenge of surviving under very tough social and economic circumstances. Wildlands helps communities restore, protect, conserve and expand the ecosystems that provide life support; their forests, rivers, wetlands and grasslands.
On June 1 the Comrades Big Five Hills will be held to raise awareness and money for saving the rhino.
Health information to start and stay healthy during the race
What runners can do to prevent serious health problems
Tips for training and nutrition for long runs from Scott Jurek
The Science Of Hydration
5 Scientific Ways to Stop Muscle Cramps (And What Causes Those Annoying Cramps In The First Place)
5 Fueling Myths – Busted!
Stay Tuned for the Comrades Marathon 2017
SABC Sport is the official television broadcaster and will devote 13 hours of live television coverage on race day, as well as an extensive build-up to the race. Live television coverage will be featured on SABC 2 and live radio coverage on Radio 2000 and Ukhozi FM, while the race will be featured extensively on all 11 official language stations, as well as SAFM and 5FM.
Comrades Marathon Info 2016
Bus Tour to see the Comrades Marathon Race Route 2016
The Comrades Marathon Down Run Route – Start
The Comrades Marathon Down Run Route – First half
The Comrades Marathon Down Run Route – Second half
Accommodation near The Comrades Marathon 2016
Watch the Comrades Marathon on Old Mutual live on Race Day
Watch 13 hours of live television coverage on SABC 2 on Race Day including build-up to the race
Live radio coverage on Race Day on Radio 2000 and Ukhozi FM and extensively featured on SAFM and 5FM
Download the Old Mutual App and track the runners’ progress
Listen to the Comrades News during 4 days on the Old Mutual live radio show
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