Matshelane Mamabolo.
Matshelane Mamabolo.

OPINION: Comrades and the dreaded c word

By Matshelane Mamabolo Time of article published Mar 15, 2020

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I received an email from the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) on Friday and for a moment my heart went up my throat.

Such have been the high number of press releases announcing the cancellation of major road running events that, lately, receiving any email about a marathon gets me nervous.

But it was with a sigh of relief that I read the subject line of the CMA email to find it was not about the dreaded C word.

Comrades were informing runners that the substitution process will be opening tomorrow.

Aaah, substitutions - it means we are still down for our annual pilgrimage between KwaZulu-Natal’s top cities, Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

The race is set for June 14, enough time to clock up the mileage and sharpen up for that silver medal run I so desire.

But it is also enough time for the Ultimate Human Race to suffer the fate of many sporting events and be called off due to the coronavirus that has got the world in its deadly grip.

In many runners’ communication platforms, the debates as to whether the race should go on have become like a contest for the SRC presidency, with the parties passionately giving strong reasons for their standpoint.

The Comrades Marathon is an international event that attracts runners from all over the world and the fear among many is that runners, particularly from Europe where the virus is rife, could well come over with infections.

It is for this reason that the Tokyo Marathon was closed to the masses and opened only to the elite and wheelchair competitors.

The London and Paris Marathons have been postponed from next month to October because of the virus and other races such as Vienna and Barcelona Marathons as well as the New York Half Marathon have been called off.

What is the Comrades position then? The CMA have said as things stand the race will go on, great tidings to runners who have already done a lot of training and are deep into their high mileage season.

The hope among most of us runners is that with Comrades happening only in June, the virus would be contained if not fully dealt with by then.

The move by many countries to restrict or totally cancel travel for a while will hopefully help reduce the rate of new infections and thus ensure the virus is dealt with effectively.

The threat of a cancellation notwithstanding, training for the 95th running of one of the world’s greatest ultra marathons continue in earnest with most now doing long runs this month as per norm.

Not for me though as I am nursing a shin niggle that has seen me driving past training runners with envy.

It is the first time I am finding myself in this position and to say it is frustrating would be an understatement.

But my biokineticist has told me in no uncertain terms that I should rest or risk the injury getting worse. I am following her instructions, albeit begrudgingly.

After all, this rest is messing with my plan of clocking up the requisite 2000km - as per many Comrades experts - for my sub 7h30 run on June 14.

No doubt the temptation, when I return, would be to catch up on missed training. But that would be folly and I will not be doing that.

Instead, I will just enjoy the training in the hope that it would be preparation for a race that would happen.

Let’s keep praying that the Comrades Marathon is not affected by the coronavirus, my Comrades.

It is the best we can do at this juncture, ain’t it?

I know that I do not want to receive an email from CMA with the dreaded C word as its subject line.


Sunday Independent

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