Welcome to the ultimate test of endurance and camaraderie – the Comrades Marathon. This oldest ultramarathon of its kind in the world, hailing from the picturesque landscapes of South Africa, stands as a testament to the indomitable human spirit and the pursuit of pushing one’s limits. In this blog post, we delve into the heart of the Comrades Marathon, exploring its grueling course that stretches over breathtaking terrains, the rigorous qualifying requirements that separate the contenders from the enthusiasts, and the steadfast rules that govern this remarkable race. Join us as we unravel the mystique surrounding this extraordinary event, where athletes from around the globe come together to challenge not only their physical prowess but also their unyielding determination.
- The Comrades Marathon is an approximately 89 – kilometer (55 miles) ultramarathon race in South Africa, known for its challenging course and alternating directions each year.
- The course alternates yearly between each year between the “up” run starting in Durban and the “down” run starting in Pietermaritzburg.
- To qualify for the Comrades Marathon, runners must complete a recognized marathon in under 4 hours and 50 minutes, within a specified qualifying period.
Overview of the Comrades Marathon
Spanning approximately 89 kilometers, the Comrades Marathon course stands as a formidable endurance trial for long-distance runners. The race annually shifts its direction, oscillating between the “up run” and the “down run,” infusing a distinct facet into this globally renowned ultra-marathon.
Of notable mention is the segment between Cato Ridge and Drummond, a stretch that introduces an intense challenge demanding unwavering stamina. Throughout this grueling race, spectators can stay engaged by tracking runners through real-time updates on their progress.
Undoubtedly, the Comrades Marathon course garners widespread acclaim as the quintessential road ultra marathon. Owing it’s reputation to its taxing nature and epic distance!
Comrades Marathon Up Run Elevation Profile
Elevation Gain: 1,913 m / 6,276 ft
Elevation Loss: 1,238 m / 4.063 ft
Comrades Marathon Down Run Elevation Profile
Elevation Gain: 1,238 m / 4.063 ft
Elevation Loss: 1,913 m / 6,276 ft
Course Cut Off Times – From Past Races
Which Comrades’ Marathon direction is worse?
The Comrades Marathon is renowned for alternating direction each year between the “up” run and the “down” run. This prompts many runners to ask the question “which direction is more challenging?. During the up run, participants confront a formidable uphill battle, whereas in the down run forces runners to grapple with steep downhill stretches that can eat your legs. Each direction presents a unique array of challenges and necessitates distinct strategies. Ultimately, the choice boils down to personal preference and an individual’s strengths as a runner.
To take part in the Comrades Marathon, prospective participants are required to adhere to specific regulations designed to ensure a competitive and high-standard event. In order to qualify for entry, each runner must successfully complete a recognized marathon covering a distance of 42.2 kilometers within a time limit of 4 hours and 50 minutes.
This rigorous criterion, which has been in effect since 2019, underscores the marathon’s unwavering dedication to maintaining an exceptional level of athletic excellence.
Furthermore, these regulations extend to provide incentives for seasoned contenders. Runners who have earned twenty-five or more medals are eligible for an exemption from the entry fee, aligning with the race’s established policy. It is important for all participants to be mindful of the nonrefundable nature of these fees, with the exception of instances where the race is canceled due to uncontrollable external factors such as natural disasters. These are commonly referred to as force majeure situations.
For South African runners, an additional prerequisite comes into play. They are mandated to be registered club runners and possess a current provincial license number.
By steadfastly adhering to these regulations, participants play a crucial role in upholding the integrity and upstanding standards of the Comrades Marathon.
The Comrades Marathon Finisher Medals
Below are the typical finishers medal. And the special back-to-back medal for those that finish the race in consecutive years, completing the Up Run and Down run in either order. In all there are 9 different medals you can earn.
- The Vic Clapham Medal or Comrades Finishers/Sub 12 Hour Medal
- The Comrades Bronze Medal or Sub 11 Hour Medal
- The Robert Mtshali Medal or Sub 10 Hour Medal
- The Bill Rowan Medal or Sub 9 Hour Medal
- The Comrades Silver Medal or Sub 7:30 Hour Medal
- The Isavel Roche Kelly Medal
- The Wally Hayward Medal
- The Comrades Gold Medal
- The Comrades Back to Back Medal
How to qualify
To qualify for the Comrades Marathon, runners must meet certain criteria and complete specific qualifying races. Below we will go over how you can qualify to run this prestigious ultramarathon in South Africa.
Official Link: Click Here
How to qualify to run comrades marathon
To qualify to run the Comrades Marathon, you need to meet certain criteria and standards. Here’s what you need to know:
- Complete a standard marathon: You must finish a recognized marathon within a specified time. The qualifying time for the Comrades Marathon is under 4 hours and 50 minutes.
- Qualifying races: The races you choose to qualify must meet the criteria set by the Comrades Marathon organizers. Make sure to select races that are recognized and accepted as qualifiers.
- Qualification period: The qualification period for the race is typically between late September, and early May. Ensure that your qualifying race falls within this timeframe.
- Disqualified entrants: It’s essential to provide accurate information when applying for qualification. In 2023, there were 25 entrants disqualified from the Comrades Marathon for providing false qualifying information. Honesty is crucial throughout the application process.
- Character and determination: Qualifying for the Comrades Marathon goes beyond just finishing a race within a specific time frame. It requires showing character and determination throughout the event, proving your commitment to this challenging race.
How to run the comrade marathon as an American?
Foreign athletes interested in joining the esteemed Comrades Marathon have the option to register for the race either through the official website or the dedicated Comrades app. This streamlined online registration process provides an accessible avenue for individuals from across the globe to become an integral part of this iconic and revered event.
It’s crucial to bear in mind that the entry fees for the marathon hold a non-refundable status, except in instances where the race necessitates cancellation due to unforeseen circumstances. Notably, international participants who took part in the 2020 race are afforded the choice to defer their entry to a subsequent edition.
For American participants aspiring to partake in the Comrades Marathon, adherence to the qualifying benchmarks established by the race organizers is imperative. This entails engagement in officially recognized marathons that are accomplished in under 4 hours and 50 minutes, given that the participant is above 20 years of age. Additionally, the chosen races must align with ASA technical compliance to ensure the validity of your results. A stipulated qualifying timeframe is in place, typically from late September to early May. During which you must complete at least one of these qualifying races. It is of utmost importance to provide precise and accurate information during the entry process, as any falsified qualifications could lead to disqualification from the race.
To find out more about entering and the associated costs, refer to the official entry information provided by the Comrades Marathon organizers.
History of The Comrades Marathon
The Comrades Marathon embarked on its inaugural journey into history in 1921, cementing its status as the world’s oldest race of its kind. Conceived by Vic Clapham, a veteran of the 8th South African Infantry in World War I, this race stands as a poignant tribute to his fallen comrades. Year after year, enthusiastic participants lace up their running shoes and congregate along the route stretching from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, perpetuating and nurturing a time-honored tradition.
Distinguished not only as the largest and oldest ultramarathon globally, the Comrades Marathon carries profound historical significance within South Africa. Every footstep taken by each dedicated runner reverberates through the corridors of time, bearing the solemn weight of the memory of those valiant soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War I. In this manner, the marathon transcends its status as a mere footrace. It transforms into a profound and deeply meaningful commemoration.
In its entirety, the Comrades Marathon stands as a living testament to the ideals of camaraderie and remembrance. It emerges as a potent symbol, traversing the epochs of time, concurrently honoring the past and kindling inspiration among present and forthcoming generations of athletes.
Notable Records and Statistics
The Comrades Marathon has seen some incredible records and statistics over the years.
The race has showcased several record-breaking performances over the years, displaying great feats of endurance and speed. Here are the fastest Comrades Marathon times recorded in this prestigious race:
Men’s Up Course Record:
2008 Leonid Shvetsov 5.24.39 1st
Men’s Down Course Record:
2023 Tete Dijana 5:13:58 1st
Women’s Up Course Record:
2019 Gerda Steyn 5.58.53 1st
Women’s Down Course Record:
2023 Gerda Steyn 5:44:54 1st
Multiple Time Winners, Medals, & Oldest Finsher
One of the most fascinating aspects of this events is the multiple-time winners. These athletes have not only conquered one of the most grueling races on the planet but have managed to do it more than once. Below are the male and females with the most wins.
Men: Bruce Fordyce – 9 Wins
Women: Elena Nurgalieva – 8 Wins
Men: Alan Robb – 12 Medals
Women: Elena Nurgalieva – 13 Medals
Johannes Mosehla – 81 Years Old with a time of 9:26:09.
Impact and Popularity of the Comrades Marathon
The race has a significant impact and is extremely popular, attracting runners from all over the world. Find out why this ultramarathon holds such appeal in South Africa’s running culture.
The race exerts a magnetic pull on a diverse array of participants, rendering it an inherently inclusive and universally captivating race. Individuals spanning various ages and backgrounds, regardless of gender, enthusiastically engage in this formidable event. The race stands as a paragon of non-discrimination, embracing entrants from an eclectic range of demographics.
The Comrades Marathon has firmly entrenched itself as a prominent fixture within popular culture, both locally in South Africa and on a global scale. Beyond being a physically demanding race, it serves as a symbol of unity, endurance, and inspiration. And stands as the oldest ultramarathon of its kind in the world.
Participants hailing from diverse backgrounds converge, united by the shared goal of pushing their physical and mental boundaries. In this collective pursuit, the marathon exudes the remarkable potential of human determination. Moreover, the marathon’s influence extends to the community at large, fostering a profound sense of togetherness and reverence for tradition.
The Comrades Marathon is not merely a race; it represents a tapestry of values woven into its fabric. Its enduring legacy and capacity to kindle hope grant it a unique and cherished position within the hearts of both runners and spectators, forging an unbreakable bond.
Gallery from Past Races
Closing Thoughts on the Comrades Ultra Marathon
As the sun sets on our exploration of the Comrades Marathon, we find ourselves immersed in a world where human spirit, determination, and unity converge. This legendary ultramarathon, with its alternating “up” and “down” runs, challenges runners to their core, taking them through breathtaking landscapes and pushing them to the limits of physical and mental endurance. The history of this race is interwoven with the sacrifices of those who came before, honoring fallen comrades and transcending its role as a mere sporting event.
The Comrades stands as a beacon of camaraderie, a symbol of unwavering dedication, and a testament to the power of the human will. As runners from around the globe continue to lace up their shoes and take on this incredible journey, they become part of a legacy that spans generations, honoring the past while igniting inspiration for the future. So, whether you’re ascending the arduous inclines of the “up” run or descending the challenging slopes of the “down” run, remember that the true victory lies not just in crossing the finish line, but in the indomitable spirit that propels you forward.
Q: What is the Comrades Marathon?
A: The Comrades Marathon is an ultra-marathon road race held annually in South Africa, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious ultra-marathons.
Q: When was the Comrades Marathon first held?
A: The first Comrades Marathon took place on May 24, 1921.
Q: How long is the Comrades Marathon?
A: The Comrades Marathon is approximately 90 kilometers (56 miles) long, alternating its direction each year from Durban to Pietermaritzburg (uphill) or vice versa (downhill).
Q: When does the Comrades Marathon usually take place?
A: The race typically held on the second Sunday in June each year.
Q: How can I enter the Comrades Marathon?
A: To enter, you need to qualify by completing an official marathon within a specified time. Registration is done online and opens several months before the race.
Q: What is the time limit for finishing the Comrades Marathon?
- A6: The time limit for completing the race is 12 hours.
Q: How many runners participate in the Comrades Marathon?
A: The number of participants varies each year but is typically around 20,000 to 25,000 runners.
Q: Are there different categories in the Comrades Marathon?
A: Yes, there are various categories, including men, women, novices, veterans, and age groupings. There are also separate categories for runners using wheelchairs.
Q: What is the “Big Five” of the Comrades Marathon?
A: The “Big Five” refers to the five challenging hills or inclines along the Comrades Marathon route: Cowies Hill, Fields Hill, Botha’s Hill, Inchanga, and Polly Shortts.
Q: Are there aid stations along the route?
A: Yes, there are numerous aid stations providing water, energy drinks, and medical assistance to runners.
Q: What is the significance of the Comrades Marathon medal colors?
A: Medal colors vary based on finish times, with gold for top finishers, silver, and bronze for different finish times, as well as Bill Rowan and Vic Clapham medals for specific achievements.
Q: Can international runners participate in the Comrades Marathon?
A: Yes, international runners are welcome, but they must meet the qualifying criteria and register within the specified time frame.
Q: Are there cutoff points during the race?
A: Yes, there are cutoff points along the route, and runners must reach certain distances within specific time limits to continue. Failure to do so results in disqualification.
Q: What are the challenges of running the Comrades Marathon?
A: The race is challenging due to its steep inclines, descents, and potentially adverse weather conditions. Proper training and preparation are crucial.
Q: Are there official Comrades Marathon merchandise and memorabilia available for purchase?
A: Yes, official merchandise, including clothing, accessories, and memorabilia, is available for purchase at the race expo and online.