There are marathons, and there are ultra-marathons, but if you want to push your body to the max, there is only one event that should be on your sporting calendar this year, and that is the Comrades Marathon set to take place in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, on Sunday 29th May, 2016.
Image Courtesy of Comrades Marathon
At 90km (yes, ninety kilometres!) run from the capital of the KwaZulu Natal province, Pietermaritzburg, to the coast city of Durban (or in reverse, it alternates annually), the Comrades Marathon is not only the world’s oldest marathon, but it is also one of the most challenging, yet it still attracts over 20,000 national and international runners each year, who have just one goal in mind, and that is to beat the current records set by Russian Leonid Shvetsov and South African Frith van der Merwe.
In 2007, Leonid Shvetsov set a new record for the ‘Down’ Comrades Marathon (Down meaning from Pietermaritzburg to Durban), with an unbelievable finishing time of just 5:20:49. In 2008, he come back and did it again on the ‘Up’ Comrades Marathon (Durban to Pietermaritzburg) with a time of 5:24:49, which still stands today.
The current record holder for the Ladies ‘Down’ race is Frith van der Merwe, who completed the course in just 5:54:43 back in 1989, and the ‘Up’ title holder goes to Elena Nurgalieva from Russia, who finished in 6:09:23 in 2006.
With an average running speed of 15-18km, these athletes take running to a whole new level, which is perhaps why entrants must be at least 20 years old, and must have completed at least one qualifying marathon of 42.2km in under 5 hours to secure their place on the Comrades Marathon.
Runners have just 11 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds to complete the course and earn a medal, which may sound like plenty of time, but you would still have to run an average of 7.5km per hour for the duration if you are to cross the finish line before the final cut-off gun is fired!
An amazing sporting event that dates back to 1920, South Africa’s Comrades Marathon separates the men from the boys, and if you want to tackle this 90km challenge in 2017, now is definitely the time to pull on your running shoes!