Preparing for the ‘Ultimate Human Race’ at the Comrades Expo at the Durban Exhibition Centre yesterday were runners Malbee Makhoba, Busisiwe Msomi, first timer Zimasa Hene and Sindiswa Mhlongo. Photo: Shelley Kjonstad/ African News Agency (ANA)
On Sunday almost 30000 runners will take off from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall for this year’s down run of the Comrades Marathon. In its 92nd year, the race will see a whopping 18110 men and 5279 women take part, with 6007 running their very first Comrades. This year’s race will also be different in that it will end at Moses Mabhida Stadium for the first time. On Thursday runners and their families gathered at the Comrades Expo at the Durban Exhibition Centre, where they got to mix with other athletes, share some tips ahead of the big day, and take a selfie or two while collecting their gear for the race.

For Bernie Karam of Durban North, this isn’t his first run. Speaking to The Mercury at the Expo, Karam, 60, said his passion for running began when he saw some of his friends training.

“At first I saw them running down Berea Road and thought they were nuts. I ended up training with them, and ran my first race in 1992. I have had on and off periods where I was either injured or rested,” he said.

Karam said he was a part of a group of runners who had a strict training programme.

“We train on weekends and take part in lots of half-marathons, marathons and ultra-marathons. You have to do the mileage in order to go the distance,” he said.

He hopes to finish in 10.5 hours. Karam said he was looking ­forward to finishing at Moses Mabhida Stadium. “I think it is exciting and different,” he said. Another runner, 62-year-old Calvin Johns, of Pinetown, will be running his 13th Comrades. His strategy is to focus on the landmarks and not the kilometres. Johns said family support was very important for runners.

“When you run, you need the structure of family. You need them to be with you, because it is a long race. There are lots of early mornings and early nights where you cannot attend family events,” he said. He added that running the Comrades was 70% about the mind and 30% about running.

For 49-year-old Zanele Nzimande, this will be her second Comrades. The Montclair resident said she began running to lose weight, and was encouraged to run her first Comrades last year.

“I finished in 10:43, and this year I would like to finish in nine hours. I have been training since December last year. I am very ­excited and have the support of my family,” she said.

Earlier this week, runners were welcomed by Tourism Kwa­Zulu-Natal. Acting chief executive Phindile Makwakwa said the province was ready to ensure that runners and spectators enjoyed an amazing, world-class experience. Makwakwa said the Comrades Marathon was an important event for the province, especially in terms of its economic impact. The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) confirmed that they predict an economic boost of up to R700million from this year’s ­Comrades. “We hope the cash injection will trickle down to all ­communities along the 90km route, and throughout the province,” she said.

Metro police spokesperson ­Senior Superintendent Parboo Sewpersad said they had an effective traffic management plan in place. Sewpersad said athletes would be running contra-flow on Old Main Road to the M13, and would join the N3 from Sherwood. They would proceed down the N3, and take the new flyover to David Webster (Leopold Street), which continues as Bram Fischer Road (Ordnance Road). They then turn left into Masabalala Yengwa (NMR Avenue) to end at Moses Mabhida Stadium for the first time.

“Durban Metro Police Service is ready to host the 93rd Comrades Marathon in the city. Routes will be monitored by CCTV cameras, marshals, police and a helicopter. Security personnel will also be ­deployed along the route,” he said.

Parboo said motorists could expect a few traffic delays, congestion and road closures along the planned route.

“We appeal to all motorists to display patience and plan their routes carefully, obey all police instructions and heed all road closures. Motorists must ensure that their vehicles are not parked illegally, or they will be towed away,” he said.

The Mercury

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