Plans are afoot to move Comrades Marathons to a new date.
It is hoped the change will ease the accommodation crisis in Pietermaritzburg as the city hosts four major events within a two-week period.
But, after weeks of confusion, it has been confirmed by the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) that the race will take place on June 1 and that it could be at least three years before the date is changed.
The Art in The Park event, hosted by Pietermaritzburg Tourism, will be moved to an earlier date to free up beds for the marathon tourists who come from all over the world.
The Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business had raised concerns about an accommodation crisis that forced many of the runners to book into hotels in Durban.
The new Comrades Marathon race director, Rowyn James, said negotiations concerning the race date were taking place between the chamber and the Msunduzi Municipality.
He told the Daily News that any changes were only likely to affect the marathon in two to three years’ time, but said the matter was still on the table.
He said 18 000 runners had been registered this year, with more than 4 200 new entrants.
Melanie Veness, chief executive of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, said the discussions were for consideration and were not expected to be immediate.
“We are aware that the logistical implications involved in changing the date of such a major iconic event are massive, and we are cognisant of the fact that the CMA has to consider the national and international calendars that are set in advance, the runners’ training programmes, as well as many other race-related factors,” she said.
Veness said the concerns in the accommodation sector were raised with the chamber. A meeting between the Royal Agricultural Society, Pietermaritzburg Tourism, Golden Horse Casino and the CMA had taken place to find a solution to the busy late May and early June schedule for the city.
She confirmed the Art in the Park event had been moved to May 21-25 this year.
“Pietermaritzburg simply cannot accommodate Comrades runners as well as Royal Show exhibitors and attendees, especially when two of our hotels are essentially booked out in advance by the racing fraternity, because our signature horse racing event, the Golden Horse Sprint, also takes place at this time of the year (Saturday May 24).
“Accommodation establishments far prefer to take Royal Show bookings, because they are for seven to 14 days, as opposed to the one or two nights required by Comrades runners, and so Comrades runners are finding themselves having to go to Durban to find accommodation, even when the start is in Pietermaritzburg.
“This is hugely inconvenient for them, as you can imagine, and the runners make no bones about expressing their displeasure at the prospect,” she said.
Veness said businesses were receiving angry calls from runners who were unable to get accommodation and were unhappy about staying in Durban.
There was also concern from runners about the noise that came from the popular Royal Show when runners tried to rest, and it was a traffic policing nightmare for police whose resources were stretched at the time of the year.
Said Veness: “If people don’t stay in the city, then they don’t spend in the city either. We would also like to do all the events justice, and be proper hosts to our visitors.” – Daily News