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KwaZulu-Natal Athletics approves 2022 Comrades Marathon race date

The start of Comrades Marathon 2003. Pic Etienne Rothbart.

The start of Comrades Marathon 2003. Pic Etienne Rothbart.

Published Sep 30, 2021

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DURBAN ‒ KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA) has approved the race date for the revamped and re-imagined 2022 Comrades Marathon.

In a statement yesterday, the provincial athletics body said the 95th running of the world’s biggest, oldest and most famous ultramarathon will take place on Sunday, August 28, 2022.

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Cheryl Winn, the chair of the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA), said in a letter to all Comrades Marathon athletes yesterday, that there has been much talk in athletic circles about a proposed race date for the 2022 Comrades Marathon.

“At CMA we believe this discourse could not have come at a better time for a complete revamp of our race calendar for the future, to re-imagine and design it in such a way that it benefits the build-up of endurance for the majority of distance runners in South Africa going forward,” she said.

Winn said the decisions taken by the CMA were made with the health and safety of runners in mind.

“We not only endeavour to uphold the integrity of our world-class event but first and foremost aim to safeguard the wellbeing of our athletes, staff, volunteers, sponsors, stakeholders, supporters and fellow South Africans involved in staging, hosting, participating and maintaining the legacy of The Ultimate Human Race,” she said.

She said CMA had submitted an application, which has been approved by KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA), for next year’s Comrades Marathon to be hosted on Sunday, August 28, 2022.

The race date was motivated by several factors including the fact that the organisers will gain an additional two hours of daylight in which to stage the 12-hour event, she said.

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Scientifically, the problem with the second Sunday of June is its proximity to June 21, which is the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere; thus, requiring that shortly after a Pietermaritzburg start, thousands of tightly-bunched participants run for an hour and a quarter in the dark, on narrow, winding, pot-holed country roads, mostly devoid of street lights, and then, after having already spent 11 hours on the road, extremely weary and wounded runners again have to navigate their way to the finish in the dark, the statement further explained.

“[This] will undeniably serve the best interests of the safety of runners and volunteers, as well as enabling the CMA to implement a staggered or wave start, as will inevitably be required going forward in terms of Covid regulations,” said the statement.

According to Winn, the date of the 100-year-old Comrades Marathon has over the years shifted from as early as mid-May to as late as mid-July

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“Originally staged on a public holiday known as Empire Day on 24 May 1921, later settled for years on Republic Day 31 May, and with the dawn of the new South Africa on Youth Day 16 June, as well as on various occasions being shifted backwards and forwards to avoid clashes with the hosting of Rugby and Fifa World Cups,” she said.

Only as recently as 2018 the CMA eventually settled on the second Sunday in June, so there is actually no “traditional” date for Comrades, she added.

“We also believe that the later date will provide a greater likelihood of the sport having resumed to some sort of normality. It will give runners ample time to prepare, for clubs to stage their own races as opportunities for runners to qualify; and enable a smooth and logical build-up of events leading up to a race of such magnitude,” said Winn.

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The CMA said details of the entry process, qualifying criteria and other race information will be confirmed at the official media launch, the date of which will be announced in due course.

THE MERCURY

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