The Comrades Marathon is an ultramarathon of approximately 89 km (approx. 56 miles) which is run annually in South Africa between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon race. The direction of the race alternates each year between the “up” and “down” run. 2015 is an “up” year starting at sea level in the center of the harbor city of Durban and finishing in Pietermaritzburg at an altitude of 650 m. On the route, runners encounter 5 major hills, popularly known as the “Big Five”. These hills include the Cowies, Fields, Botha’s, Inchange and the dreaded Polly Shorts. This last hill is the ultimate in heartbreak hills and is often the making or breaking point for even the top contenders. While it is 133m less than the highest point on the course, it is a formidable obstacle to any runner with two back-to-back standard marathons behind him.
During the event an athlete must also reach five cut-off points in specified times to remain in the race, and finish the course in 12 hours or less. At the finish line, the final seconds get counted before the finish chutes are closed and those brave souls that fought right up until the last seconds are ushered past the finish line. No congratulatory handshake. No medal. No mention in the history books of the Comrades Marathon that you got that far. DNF. Did not finish.
The field is capped at 18,000 runners, and entrants hail from more than 60 countries. The Comrades was run for the first time on May 24, 1921, and with the exception of a break during World War 2, has been run every year since.
The spirit of the Comrades Marathon is said to be embodied by attributes of camaraderie, selflessness, dedication and perseverance.
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“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” Hebrews 12:1