Elite Feet

Taking It To The Next Level: The Comrades “Marathon”

The world has fallen in love with marathons. We signed up at a record levels for hundreds of marathons across the world. They sell out quicker than ever and races that only had 5 thousand runners a year ago now have 15 thousand. Some people only want to run one, others want to go faster, but if you really want to take it to the next level, you do Comrades. In the world of long distance running, Comrades is the ultimate race. Comrades is an annual ultra-marathon held in South Africa. The course is 56 miles of challenging hills with nearly 90 years of history. To South Africans, Comrades is a national treasure, a race where folklore is made. Every runner who finishes is considered a hero. One native runner had this to say:

Marathon runner cooling off in puddle

As a lifetime running experience, this is probably it. It has 90 kilometers of huge hills, steep descents and long, never-ending flat stretches. This is a race that will test not only your legs, but your mental tenacity. Expect temperatures of about 30°C (86°F) when the sun is up. Enjoy the best, most inspiring spectator support you will ever receive in a race - these people get up at 5:00 in the morning to catch the front runners and pack up their bags when the last runner has passed them. Picture a stadium resonating with the sound of cheering when you eventually cross the line. A truly inspirational race that will leave your running career changed for life.

One unique attribute of Comrades is its strict time limit. You get 12 hours and 12 hours only to finish. If you don't finish when the 12 hour gun goes off, you never existed. No medal, nothing recorded in the books. Except for the "torn to shreds" muscles and blisters all over your feet, nobody will have ever know you ran a mile. Watching the last few minutes of the race at the final mile marker and the people trying to get in before 12 hours brings tears to your eyes.

Medals are awarded as follows:

Gold First 10 Men and Women
Wally Hayward Position 11 to sub 6hrs 00min
Silver 6hrs 00min to sub 7hrs 30 min
Bill Rowan 7hrs 30min to sub 9hrs 00min
Bronze 9hrs 00min to sub 11hrs 00min
Vic Clapham 11hrs 00min to sub 12hrs 00min

Also, the course is reversed each year to change things up. This leaves you with an incredible uphill run one year and the downhill next. Which leads to the inevitable question that one asks if someone says they have completed Comrades. "Uphill or downhill?" A downhill usually gets a "good for you" type response because until you've finished an uphill you've only finished half of Comrades.

Every year 11,000 - 13,000 thousand runner participate in the race, a staggering number for such a difficult run. According to the race website, the best times ever recorded are:

Time Name Year
Women's 06:09:24 Elena Nurgalieva 2006
Men's 05:25:33 Valdmir Kotov 2000