Today is “The Best Day of the Year” in My humble opinion, it is the day the Comrades Marathon is run. Although it’s called a Marathon, it is one Marathon that is actually an Ultra-marathon. It is about 52 miles.
It is one of the Oldest and in my opinion one of the most fascinating races out there.
The race was the idea of World War I veteran Vic Clapham, to commemorate the South African soldiers killed during the war. Clapham endured a 2,700-kilometre route march through sweltering East Africa in WWI, 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”.
Unlike Boston, where the qualifying times are pretty fast and only the true “runners” can compete, Comrades has a fairly leinient qualifying time and it celebrates the 12 hour finishers with as much cheering as the winners. Comrades certainly had a big black eye for many many years as it was run in Apartheid ruled South Africa, and Black South Africans were banned from competing. It was not until 1975 that blacks and women were allowed to enter. And even then Apartheid rule continued. In 1981, one of Comrades most famous runners, Bruce Fordyce ran and won, wearing a black armband in protest. Originally he was to boycott the run entirely, but in his running, and winning, I think he made a bigger statement, than by just being absent.
And so the race has gone one, year after year, largely ignored by the USA, and maybe I think I hope it remains as such.
Today was the 86th running. The race course alternates from Durban and Pietermaritzburg to Pietermaritzburg to Durban. It is a hilly challenging route either way and is termed either an “Up” year or a “Down year” while the down appeals in theory, most runners say its harder due to the frequent Down down down on the quads.
What amazes me is that regular people run it. All sorts of regular folk run this race, and complete and come back year after year after year….
THis is actually the only reason I had this crazy surgey, for this race. So. Here’s to an excellent comrades day!!!!!