No Comrades for first time since WW2 - but Durban July still ...

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No Comrades for first time since WW2 - but Durban July still (sort of) on

The ultra-marathon organisers had hoped to postpone the race to September, but were left with no choice

Tiisetso Malepa and David Isaacson
2019 Comrades Marathon winner Edward Mothibi will have to wait for 2021 to defend his crown.
TRIUMPHANT 2019 Comrades Marathon winner Edward Mothibi will have to wait for 2021 to defend his crown.
Image: Jackie Clausen

The Comrades Marathon has been cancelled for the first time since WW2 because of the coronavirus pandemic‚ organisers announced on Thursday.

Athletics SA (ASA) president Aleck Skhosana said the decision to cancel was a correct one, as it was taken to protect the health and safety of the runners.

“Cancelling what would have been the 95th edition of the Comrades Marathon was a long and arduous decision to make‚” said Skhosana.

“With the race’s rich history‚ its powerful nation-building attributes and contribution towards social cohesion‚ as well as its immense economic impact‚ it would have been premature to rush into an outright cancellation sooner.”

The race was first postponed in April shortly following the lockdown.

Organisers said the ultra-marathon faced a similar dilemma exactly 80 years ago, but a last-minute decision was taken to stage the 20th edition despite being eight months into the conflagration of WW2.

Despite the withdrawal of many runners who had been mobilised for the war effort in 1940‚ the race went ahead with just 23 starters, with only 10 crossing the finish line.

The following year the race was cancelled and remained so for the duration of the war between 1941 and 1945.

The cancellation also means the 95th edition in 2021, starting from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall at 5.30pm and finishing 12 hours later at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, will now be the 47th down run and will coincide with celebrations of the centenary of the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA)‚ which was founded on May 24 1921.

CMA chairperson Cheryl Winn said she had hoped the race would be postponed to September, but with the Covid-19 crisis expected to peak in SA in the coming months‚ her organisation was left with no option.

“As CMA‚ it is incumbent upon us to prioritise the health‚ safety and wellbeing of our athletes‚” she said.

Winn reassured runners on a number of practical issues‚ advising that CMA would deal with the roughly 2,500 foreign and 25‚000 SA entries received for the 2020 Comrades Marathon.

He said SA entrants would not be refunded their entry fee, but would instead receive their Comrades 2020 Mr Price Sport runners T-shirt and goodie bag‚ as well as a Comrades badge and flash. Foreign entrants may cancel or defer to Comrades 2021 and/or Comrades 2022.

“Sad as it is‚ as CMA we can now turn our focus towards the staging of our centenary celebrations next year in the comfort of knowing we can rely on the passionate loyalty and participation of so many.”

But the Durban  July is still on

Good and bad news for racing fans – SA’s most famous race, the Vodacom Durban July, will be run this year, but behind closed doors. The proposed date is July 25.

In a joint statement on Thursday, Gold Circle and Vodacom confirmed the race would adhere to all government health protocols surrounding Covid-19.

“Sadly, given the reality of the present circumstances, the race meeting will be staged behind closed doors without spectators. The July has enjoyed an uninterrupted history since first being run in 1897 – not even two world wars prevented the race from being run,” said Gold Circle CEO Michel Nairac.

“We are doing everything in our power to ensure 2020 is not the exception."


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