As the first of several articles on the great South African ultra-marathon the questions you need to ask yourself as a runner are quite simply related to the human spirit and all we transpire to believe and behold as athletes. The race itself challenges your physical, psychological and mental fortitude whilst forging your path through this great race. The Comrades by its virtue and history provides the ultimate reference of respect from fellow running peers, whatever your level of fitness and sporting ability. Quite simply put, whether to race it or complete it ticks a big box sitting within a runners ‘bucket list’.

The Comrades Marathon is widely regarded as the world’s greatest ultra-marathon and South Africa’s most inclusive sporting event. It captures the imagination of a nation with its spirit and camaraderie. The international flavour of the race now also attracts well over several thousand of aspiring and courageous runners looking to fulfil their goals and objectives with the great race.

WHAT IS THE COMRADES MARATHON? The Comrades Marathon is an 86-90kms (around 56 miles) ultra-marathon that takes place in South Africa every year. Alternating between Durban & Pietermaritzburg the race offers the DOWN & UP which has slightly differing race lengths. The UP run represents the first 38km with hill climbing, whilst the DOWN run has a distinct tough first marathon followed by a tough section of downhill running on the quads. Make no mistake, this race is not for the meek or the faint hearted, either direction provides challenges to overcome.

THE HISTORY The first Comrades Marathon was run in 1921, when only 34 runners lined up before the Pietermaritzburg City Hall to commence a race to Durban to commemorate the spirit and the camaraderie of the soldiers who fought in the Great War. The Comrades Marathon was the idea of Vic Clapham, a First World War veteran, whose vision was to create a living memorial to the spirits of his comrades who had suffered greatly in the war. The first race was won by Bill Rowan, a 26 year old farmer in a time of 08h59, which is the slowest winning time in the history of the race. Of the 34 runners that participated in the first race, there were only 16 finishers of the race.

This traditional event has occurred every year, with the exception of the World War II years, with nearly 28,000 runners entering the race over the recent years. The race itself has marathon pre-qualification expectations and thereafter seeding s and pens alike from the professionals through to the 12 hour cut off participants. Race day cut off points are defined and controlled so fitness, capability and race management are key along with nutrition and fuelling.


42.2 km 4:49:59

48 – 50 km 5:49:59

52 – 54 km 6:24:59

56 km 6:44:59

60 km 7:19:59

64 km 7:54:59

68 km 8:29:59

80 km 10:24:59

90 km 11:59:59

100 km 13:29:59

The Medals & Prizes

As a define professional race with prize money the race attracts worldwide interest due to its prestige and history with the winners role of honour reflecting many a great athlete in both women’s and men’s running over the decades past.
The individual age category and team prizes on offer are contesting strongly with a multitude of opportunities for the elite and serious runners to achieve their name in history and engraved within the Vic Clapham (veterans) and Gunga Din (seniors) trophies as examples of the four man teams.

The year 2020 race represents the 99th year since its humble start, hence the 2021 race 100th anniversary, with a back to back set of medals, becomes a special occasion and one which will have many looking to achieve and participate in.

For those with aspirations of multiple Comrades races and achievement the Back to Back medals are clearly sought after for the UP and DOWN runs followed by the green laurel for 10 Comrades and double laurel for 20 Comrades. There are a remote few die-hards closing in on 50 Comrades completions…there’s a thought to leave you with!

The international runner looking to take on this iconic race should prepare 9 months in advance with the logistics and travel plans and clearly around 6 months of race preparation and conditioning. As a Comrades Ambassador on the doorstep feel free to use the website, social media apps and direct email contact for the support as required on the race and training requirements.

For more info contact [email protected]