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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

2023 Comrades winner likely to be a millionaire as yet another sponsor signs on

After surviving two tough years when the Covid-19 pandemic prevented them from staging the race, organisers of the Comrades Marathon are now smiling from ear-to-ear. This after they announced a new commercial partner. The Government Employee Medical Scheme (GEMS) is the latest sponsor to sign on for a three-year deal.

"For us this is not a sponsorship," said GEMS Chief Marketing Officer of Dr Phumelela Dhlomo at the announcement which was made just sixteen days before the 96th running of the world oldest and most loved ultra marathon. "This is a partnership, because as a sponsor you are looking at it as once off thing but as a partner you are looking long term. The association for us is based on the credibility that Comrades has built over the years. We are very proud of that."

Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) Chairperson, Mqondisi Ngcobo alongside Dr Phumelela Dhlomo, Chief Marketing Officer of GEMS at the announcement of the new partnership on 25 May. Photo Credit: CMA Media.

That it took more than two years for the agreement to be concluded is an indicator on just how serious the healthcare provider for the public service is about Comrades. The cash injection afforded by this latest sponsor in conjunction with other big name sponsors such as FNB, means that a male or female South African winner could run away with over a million rand in prize money on Sunday.

If the winner in either the Men’s or Women’s races in this year’s Comrades Marathon breaks the Down Run Best Times of David Gatebe (2016 – 5:18:19) or Frith van der Merwe (1989 – 5:54:43) respectively, he or she will take home a minimum of R1-million in prize money, comprising of a first prize of R500 000 plus a R500 000 incentive for breaking the Best Time. In addition to these prizes the First South African and First KZN athlete will each receive R200 000 and R60 000 respectively.

If Gerda Steyn can break Frith van der Merwe's long-standing Comrades Down Run record on Sunday then she will run away with over a million rand in prize money. Photo Credit: Lifutso Mabua.

Comrades Marathon race director Rowyn James says this makes the Ultimate Human Race is officially the richest ultra-marathon in Africa. "Comrades has returned to the home of where it always used to finish being the Hollywoodbets Kingsmead Stadium. The last time the race finished there was in 2016. We also committed to the runners and the media that when circumstance allowed we would put the prize money back to pre-Covid levels. R4,3 million is the prize purse for this year's race. And it's a very good likelihood that both the men's and ladies record will go this year."

The 96th Comrades Marathon will be the 48th Down Run on Sunday, 11 June 2023, starting at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall at 05h30 and ending 12 hours later at the Hollywoodbets Kingsmead Stadium in Durban, covering a 87,701km distance.

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