The Comrades Marathon 2014
The Comrades Marathon, first run on the 24th of May 1921 in remembrance of fallen soldiers in The Great War, can possibly be considered the greatest of the world’s ultra marathons.
Runners from all corners of the world come to test themselves against the near 90kms of road stretching between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. The route alternates each year and the 2014 marathon is an ‘down-run,’ which means it will start at the cricket oval in Pietermaritzburg and drop to the finish at the City Hall in Durban. The race is a famous South African event and has been run every year since 1921, except for the years of 1941-1945, when it was put on hold during the Second World War. The Comrades attracts thousands of entrants from all over the world and is watched by a vast number of spectators.
The race, beginning in Pietermaritzburg, in the middle of the endless grassy hills of the midlands at 5:30am on Sunday the 1st of June, boasts many points of interest, both historical and geographical. The race route wends its way towards the subtropical greenery of the Kwazulu-Natal coastline, passing the huge awe-inspiring peaks of the Drakensburg mountain range and ending in Durban. Points of interest along this route include the Wall of Honour which marks the halfway point between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. This landmark has been permanently established in order to mark the great achievement participants have made in running this marathon. Runners may purchase a block and plaque on which to commemorate their run, which will be displayed at this site. At this point there is also a spot cut into the bank which is known as Arthur’s Seat and is said to have been a cherished spot of rest for the famous Arthur Newton, who won the marathon five times in the 1920’s. Another spot of great inspiration to runners is the Ethembeni School for Handicapped Children which is located near Inchanga. At this site the handicapped children of the school line the street cheering runners on with great enthusiasm.
The event which hosts over 13 000 runners each year has been monitored for the last 16 years using the ChampionChip system for timing. The ChampionChip is a passive transponder which a contestant attaches to their shoe lace. This device gives each contestant a personal code and transmits data back to the Comrades Marathon database whenever a reading mat is crossed on the route. This ensures that the most accurate of records are kept not only in finishing times but also in split times between runners taken at intervals during the run. As the ChampionChip is a requirement for all runners the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has made a large sponsorship subsidising some 24 000 of these by almost half, ensuring it is affordable to all contestants.
The approximately 89km race is a huge international event which attracts not only runners but also a great amount of international and local spectators who line the scenic route, spurring runners on during this gruelling feat of endurance. It is an event that should not be missed whether one is a participant, spectator or sponsor.
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