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The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) intends taking full advantage of the Fifa World Cup in South Africa by launching several new initiatives, including a specially designed commemorative medal linked to the soccer event in 2010.
Meanwhile, the 2009 race, a "down run" from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, will take place three weeks earlier than usual, on May 24, to accommodate the Confederations Cup soccer tournament which starts in mid-June.
The CMA unveiled its 2009 campaign in Johannesburg yesterday, with posters capturing various runners in their moments of triumph.
Twenty-eight-year-old Deon van der Walt from Johannesburg was surprised to find himself as one of the "pin- ups" for the poster campaign. He said he was not the perfect example of an athlete, but had completed four Comrades.
"My advice to any novice is to stay positive and get your mind right before the race. Get out there and train, and run as many marathons as you can."
Although entries for the race close on March 31, 2009, the final qualification date is still April 28. This will allow races such as the Ironman SA, Two Oceans, Loskop and Chatsworth marathons to remain as qualifying events, even though they take place after entries have closed.
In 2010, the race will take place on May 30, just days before the start of the soccer World Cup, and organisers hope the race will be an ideal opportunity for runners and others involved to become part of the wave of excitement which will be sweeping the country at that time.
With this in mind, the CMA has decided to cap the overall entry level at 20 000 runners and, in another break with tradition, the 2010 race will be another "down run" meaning there will be two such runs in succession.
This was felt necessary from an infrastructural point of view and to ease the congestion of runners towards the medal cut-off time for participants. As part of the attraction for novices, the traditional medal for first-time runners completing back-to-back up and down runs will become a "double down" medal and novices who finish within the cut-off time in 2009 will automatically qualify for 2010.
Not only do South African athletes have the challenge of finding a way to beat the Russians, but to be part of the dream of growing "the ultimate human race" into an event worthy of the world stage in 2010. - Sapa