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88th Comrades Ultra Marathon, Durban - Pietermaritzburg (Südafrika), 02/06/2013
German version


Where Runners return for Decades

The Comrades Marathon is the world's oldest and biggest Ultra Race. It started in 1921. Since then it has taken place yearly - with a break only during World War II. The route direction between Durban and Pietermaritzburg changes year by year. Odd years see the "up run", even years go "down run". The down run to Durban has 89K and is currently 2K longer than the up run. The altitude difference between highest and lowest point is 800 meters, while the route has obviously more than 1000 meters due to numerous downs and ups. 

More than 90 years ago there were 34 runners at the first race. The event was an idea of Vic Clapham, a World War I veteran from Pietermaritzburg. In vain he tried to inspire the athletics organisation. After three  years without success at the sports association his idea was finally supported by the League of Comrades.
Today the race is always sold out early, now accepting 18,000 applicants. Millennium year actually saw a record of almost 24,000 finishers, when the event celebrated its 75th jubilee.

According to ranking and finishing time there are six different medals to be received. First timers who do it again the following year get an additional "back-to-back" medal. An outstanding honour is the reward of the "Green Number" for 10 successful Comrades marathons. The race's value also is expressed by the TV broadcasting of its full length, a mere 12 hours. Note that the runner who is just one second late will not get a medal and is regarded as DNF (did not finish). A rule that certainly contributes to the race's reputation.


The Down Run Profile


Here are some photos and comments of the 2013 edition:

The Prom:

Wintry Durban provides the perfect climate for running. Off season the beach gets empty.

Start before sunrise:

The field sets off at 5.30 am.
Local hotels serve breakfast from 3 am!

Almost all participants are from South Africa. They make a big choir to sing the national anthem before the start and even louder "Shosholoza", one of the most popular traditional folk songs.

Since 1948 the start sound has been the famous cockcrow, the taped voice of long gone Max Trimbourne who established it.

80km to go:

Runners are already soaked with sweat. It's going to be a very hot winter day.

As soon as the road ascends everybody turns to walking.

70km to go:

Almost 2 hours on the way already,
but we feel like having just started.

Drink, drink, drink:

Water and electrolyte drinks are offered in small plastic tubes every 3km. 
There is also coke and various food.

Meantime temperature approaches 30°c.

60km to go:

Runners get the feeling that
this is an up run this year.

1st Challenge:

Who is not in time at 10.40 am
will be disqualified without any concession.

Massage Station:

Gradually it is beginning to hurt.

"Good Morning Arthur":

Legend says the every runner who kindly greets Arthur and presents him a rose will have a good second half of the race.

The flowers are distributed by a sponsor just before arriving at Arthur's Seat.

Arthur's Seat:

Arthur Newton, five time winner of the Comrades Marathon between 1922 and 1927 used to have rest here on a stony bank beside the road.

Wall of Honour:

At half way runners pass the endless wall of honour.

Honour Plates:

Not only the winners are honoured here. Every finisher can have his own memory plate after paying a small fee. Green plates are reserved for those who completed at least 10 Comrades.

German winner from Black Forest:

Legendary Charly Doll is the only German Male who won the Comrades Marathon.

German Maria Bak won three times,
Birgit Lennartz once in 1999.

40km to go:

Runners seek the shadow while it hardly helps to cool down. Temperatur has setteld at 31°c.

Head wind is getting stronger. Numerous signs have been blown down.

Athletes of the Future:

Young spectators are happy to get some of the runners' provision.

30km to go:

My last photo taken en route.
From now on I had to concentrate on surviving.

Final Stadium Lap:

Groups of exhausted runners approach the finish line in front of crowds of spectators.

The Finish:

It has got dark already. After 11:46 h
my shape looks better than it is. I left just 14 min to the time limit,
one of 10,223 happy finishers.




Comrades Marathon,
Durban-Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

official website

date: 1st Sunday in June
direction changes yearly;
odd years up run (87km),
even years down run (89km).



This is a private German website and not commercial.
Revenues are delivered to the charity Sterntaler eV without any shortage.

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