Almost 20 000 people have entered the 2011 Comrades Marathon - and 4882 of them will be running it for the first time!

Almost 20 000 people will take part in the Comrades Marathon in May, including a host of elite athletes, the organisers announced on Thursday.

The 86th edition of the race, an “up” run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, will be held on May 29, and the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) said 19 617 people had entered the gruelling race.

“After the excitement of the Fifa World Cup last year, the Comrades Marathon also celebrated a great year,” said CMA chairman Peter Pollock.

“However, coming off the back of that, it is exciting to see that the 2011 race attracted 19 617 entrants.”

Entries poured in from around the world, the CMA said. The United Kingdom produced the most foreign entrants from one country with 253 runners, the United States boasted 179 entries, Australia would be represented by 152 runners and Brazil had 115 people taking part.

The organisers also said the race had attracted 4882 novices.

The top 10 men and women from the 2010 “down” run had all entered this year's event, and an elite team of Ethiopian men would toe the line for the first time.

The CMA said the Ethiopians were expected to pose a formidable threat to the challenge from South Africans and Russians. - Sapa