A running guide to: The Comrades Marathon.

All you ever needed to know about the Comrades Marathon. 

TIMELINE

1921 - Inaugural Comrades Marathon organised by Vic Clapham to honour his wartime comrades. Of 34 starters, just 16 finish.

1923 - First unofficial female finisher, Frances Hayward. The ‘white men only’ rules mean she gets no medal, so fellow runners and spectators hold a collection to buy her a prize – a silver tea service.

1935 - First unofficial black finisher, Robert Mtshali. He was not given a medal.

1962 - The first foreign entrants in the Comrades are four runners from The Road Runners Club of England, includine race winner John Smith. Watching the stragglers finish, Smith commented to former winner Bill Cochrane that they were getting as much applause as he did. ‘You are now witnessing the spirit of the Comrades,’ replied Cochrane.

1975 - ‘White men only’ rule scrapped. Gabeshane ‘Vincent’ Rakabele becomes the rst black runner to officially receive a Comrades medal, finishing 20th in 6:27. Elizabeth Cavanaugh is the rst official women’s winner, in just over 10 hours.

1976 - Twenty black athletes enter, all finish, three in the top 20.

1981 - Bruce Fordyce wins wearing a twisted black armband on his left arm, a symbol of anti-apartheid protest.

1989 - Sam Tshabalala is the first black runner to win the race.

1995 - President Nelson Mandela congratulates winners at The Comrades nish line. The traditional race day (May 31) is changed to June 16 to mark the anniversary of the Soweto uprising.

2009 - Since 2009, every male winner has been a black athlete.

 

COURSE

The route alternates each year between ‘Up’ and 'Down'. 2018 is a Down year and slightly longer than previous versions at 90.18km.

‘Up’ route Durban – Pietermaritzburg (87K)

‘Down’ route Pietermaritzburg - Durban (89K)

 

RECORDS

‘Up’

Fastest man: 5:24:49 (Leonard Shvetsoc, 2008)

Fastest woman: 6:09:23 Elena Nurgalieva (2006)

‘Down’

Fastest man: 5:20:49 (Leonard Shvetsoc, 2007)

Fastest woman: 5:44:43 (Frith van der Merwe, 1989)

 

STATS

Elevation - 2,854 ft (810m)

Most consecutive wins is eight by Bruce Fordyce: 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988

1,411 of 18,113 entrants in 2012 were from outside South Africa

44 Most medals won by one runner (Dave Rogers)

23,961 Highest number of entrants (for 75th anniversary race in 2000)

15.3km/h is the average speed of the leading male. 

Wally Hayward won in 1930 then in 1950, 1951, 1953 and 1954 in 1989 he became oldest man to finish, aged 80.

 

MEDALS

Gold: First 10 men and women.

Silver-centre circled by gold ring: (‘Wally Hayward’ medals) 11th to sub-6:00

Silver: 6:01 to sub-7:30

Bronze-centre circled by silver ring: (‘Bill Rowan’ medals) 7:30min to sub-9:00

Bronze medals: 9:00min to sub-11:00

Copper: (Vic Clapham medals): 11:00min to sub-12:00

 

PRIZE MONEY

Men & Women 

1. 425,000.00
2. 210,000.00
3. 160,000.00
4. 80,000.00
5. 65,000.00
6. 36,000.00
7. 32,000.00
8. 28,000.00
9. 24,000.00
10. 20,000.00

THE CUT

5-hour - Marathon time to qualify

12 hours - Cut-off time to finish

 

CHEATS

40K was the distance travelled in a taxi by (later disqualified) top ten finisher Herman Matthee during the 1993 race.

In 1999 two identical brothers swapped places and drove between toilet stops. They were exposed when TV footage showed them wearing watches on different arms.

 

LOSS

During race the average runner will lose…

4.5 litres of sweat and 3-5 kg of body weight.

 

BIB COLOUR

(White) first race

(Yellow) 9 finishes, going for 10th

(Green)10 or more previous finishes

(Green sripes) 20 or more previous finishes

(Orange) back-to-back runs

(Blue) International runner

 

5 BIG HILLS

Cowies: Length 1.3miles, height 334 feet

Fields: Length 2miles, height 610 feet

Botha’s: Length 1.4miles, height 382 feet

Inchanga: Length 1.4 miles, height: 475 feet

Polly Shortts: Length 1.1 miles, height: 392 feet

 

South African rugby player Bill Payn’s in-race fueling strategy in 1922 consisted of bacon and eggs, curried chicken, beer, peach brandy, oranges and tea He finished 8th.