Johannesburg - The 88th edition of the world's oldest ultra-marathon, the Comrades Marathon, was launched in Johannesburg on Wednesday, under the official slogan for the race - 'U are ultraordinary!'.
Chairman of the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA), Peter Proctor, said he and the rest of the CMA were proud of their campaign and hoped to inspire as many South Africans as possible to enter the iconic race.
“There is no doubt in our minds that every single Comrades runner is 'ultraordinary' and lends a unique feature to South Africa's most famous road-running race,” Proctor said.
“We are whole-heartedly anticipating the start of the race and the spirit of the Comrades.
“Hopefully 2013 will achieve much greater heights and I hope the runners will continue to share in the camaraderie of the race.”
The marathon takes place on June 2 next year and starts outside the Durban City Hall, with the final cut-off gun set go off 12 hours later at the Pietermaritzburg cricket oval to signal the end of the 86.9 km race, featuring 48 refreshment stations and approximately 5 000 volunteers.
Entries for this year's 'up-run' open on Saturday and the last entry forms will be accepted on November 30, or as soon as the full allocation of places has been reached.
All entrants must compete an officially recognised qualifying event in order to compete, while all foreign athletes are required to produce a clearance certificate from their IAAF-affiliated associations before the event.
CMA race director Johan Van Staden unveiled the details of the race and stressed the importance for athletes to complete their entries in the time that has been allocated for the race.
“There is a lot of work to be done but the ground work and preparations are on track,” Van Staden said.
“We will have only one entry window and we will cut runners off after November 30.
“By setting the cap at 18 000, we usually end up with 15 000 runners on the start line and it is a number we can handle on the start line and on the route.”
Van Staden added that the organisational aspects of the race posed many challenges due to the size of the event, but he assured athletes that event safety and security would be of the utmost importance.
“Comrades is a huge organisation. Early in the year we are already prepared for Comrades 2013,” he said.
“Our main aim is not to change anything but to make things better this year. We want to make sure that our processes and support is better for the athletes.
“We want the athletes to have a successful race and we are going to ensure that every athlete that enters and takes part will enjoy the race.
“We as an organising committee know that an athlete is going to have one of the most difficult experiences of their lives.”
In addition to the race, the CMA announced that six charities would benefit from next year's Comrades Marathon through the CMA's charitable platform Amabeadibeadi, which generated R3.2 million during the 2012 race and was hoping to raise even more in June next year.