JOHANNESBURG - There are a half a million reasons why Bongumusa Mthembu will be hitting the road starting on Monday to prepare for next year’s Comrades Marathon.
That is the minimum amount in rands the Arthur Ford superstar runner stands to bank should he win the 2019 edition of the Ultimate Human Race, a feat that will see him complete a rare hat-trick of titles.
The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) yesterday launched the 84th edition of the world famous ultra marathon in Johannesburg and among a number of changes announced was a 13 percent increase in overall prize-money.
The winning man and woman will next year win a cool R500,000 and both defending champions, Mthembu and Anne Ashworth, expressed delight at the increase. “This is a good improvement and that is the kind of money that could change a lot for Bongumusa,” Mthembu said yesterday.
Delighted at getting her winner's jacket because she will not be at tonight’s Comrades gala dinner in Durban, Ashworth said: “It’s amazing that the prize money has gone up.” There will be a purse of R4.3 million for the competitors with the runners-up taking home R250,000 and third placed finishers R180,000.
There’s also bonuses for the first KwaZulu Natal and South African finishers as well as an incentive to break the Up Run (from Durban to Maritzburg) course records. “I’ve been resting since Croatia (the recent world 100km championships where he finished third) but training starts Monday," said Mthembu.
"It (Comrades) is coming home to Maritzburg next year so I do not want to disappoint my family and my fans. The increase of the bonus for first provincial runner and first South African is also very good,” he said, adding that records are "made to be broken".
The man himself! 2018 Men’s Winner Bongmusa Mthembu pic.twitter.com/bKuUCl26ea
“I will be happy to break the record but to do that I need to start now; I can’t get to the race and decide I want the record. As soon as I start training I need to decide I am going for it.”
The monetary increase, though, was not the only change announced for the 94th running of the KZN classic. The CMA will also be introducing two new medals to the current lot, with one particularly for the female runners.
Instead of the silver medal they previously received, the women finishing outside the top 10 but under seven and a half hours will now be awarded the Isavel Roche-Kelly medal, so named after the late runner who won the 1980 and 1981 editions and was also the first woman to break the seven and a half-hour barrier for the epic 90km foot race.
The other new medal is to be named the Robert Mtshali medal and it will be awarded to those finishing between nine and 10 hours. Mtshali was the first unofficial black runner in the 1935 edition. He finished in 9hr 30min. Entries for next year’s race open next Friday, October 19 and the participants will be capped at 25 000.