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Will there be a running of the Comrades Marathon in 2022?

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Jan 15, 2022

The Ultimate Human Race, the Comrades Marathon, has not taken place since 2019 due to the pandemic but should return in 2022.

Runners have had to wait to take part in the 95th edition of the iconic race and there are still fears that this year’s race could fall pray to another winter surge of the dread virus.

Organisers have set out their stall to stage the race on Sunday 28 August 2022.

The Comrades Marathon Association have moved to ensure runners and the wider public that health and safety are their utmost priority.

“Decisions taken by the CMA are primarily made with the health and safety of runners in mind. We not only endeavour to uphold the integrity of our world-class event but first and foremost aim to safeguard the well-being of our athletes, staff, volunteers, sponsors, stakeholders, supporters and fellow South Africans involved in staging, hosting, participating and maintaining the legacy of The Ultimate Human Race,” CMA chairperson Cheryl Winn said in a statement when announcing the new running date.

Why is the Comrades Marathon moving to August

CMA have taken the opportunity presented by the forced cancellations to rethink and revamp the entire Comrades Marathon experience.

Winn revealed that the race has been moved to August to ensure that the majority of distance runners would be able to build greater endurance, taking into account qualifying races and other events.

“There has been much talk in athletic circles about a proposed race date for the 2022 Comrades Marathon,” Winn added.

“At CMA we believe this discourse could not have come at a better time for a complete revamp of our race calendar for the future, to re-imagine and design it in such a way that it benefits the build-up of endurance for the majority of distance runners in South Africa going forward.”

Optimum conditions

Gift Kelehe climbs Polly Shorts during the 2017 Comrades Marathon. Photo: BackpagePix

CMA also believe an August race would provide better conditions for runners, and avoid starting and finishing the race in the dark.

“Scientifically, the problem with the second Sunday of June is its proximity to 21 June, which is the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere; thus, requiring that shortly after a Pietermaritzburg start, thousands of tightly-bunched participants run for an hour and a quarter in the dark, on narrow, winding, pot-holed country roads, mostly devoid of streetlights, and then, at the other end of the day, after having already spent 11 hours on the road, extremely weary and wounded runners once again have to navigate their way to the finish in the dark.

“And the situation is even more precarious for our volunteers, who have the responsibility of setting up and cleaning up, even further into the hours of darkness.

“When it comes to climatic conditions, according to historical weather information the average temperature in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal for the month of August is .5 degree (i.e. 1/2 degree) warmer than the month of June. The average total precipitation for the entire month of August is 10mm more than for the month of June. And the average humidity for August is 71% as opposed to 70% in June.”

Comrades Marathon dodging the lurgy

The final factor in CMA’s decison to move the race to August has to do with South Africa’s COVID-19 response.

They hope the new date will give them the best chance of staging the iconic race which has been sorely missed by South African runners.

“Another factor of the rationale behind moving The Ultimate Human Race to a date later in the year is to ensure the best possible chance against once again having to cancel the Comrades Marathon in these uncertain times of the coronavirus pandemic, and in doing so, to actually be able to stage the Comrades Marathon which is so loved by runners in South Africa and all over the world, as a Beacon of Hope, following the past two years of despair.

“The CMA Board’s strategic focus is to sustain this beloved, 100-year-old, iconic, national institution of a race, that is part of our national heritage, and which is so symbolically and economically critical to the sport of athletics in KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa, for the next 100 years. This can only happen if we are able to host a Comrades Marathon next year and get back on track with ensuring that our event is hosted on an annual basis going forward.”

“We also believe that the later date will provide a greater likelihood of the sport having resumed to some sort of normality. It will give runners ample time to prepare, for clubs to stage their own races as opportunities for runners to qualify; and enable a smooth and logical build-up of events leading up to a race of such magnitude.”

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