Comrades Marathon likely to take place in August 2022
As mass participation athletics events return to Europe, many South Africans have been left asking if iconic ultra marathons which routinely drew 20 000 runners before the pandemic will ever return. Those who watched Guye Adola doggedly dethrone Kenenisa Bekele to win the Berlin Marathon on Sunday, may have been more impressed with the fact that organisers were able to put on a safe race for 25 000 elite and social runners. And the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) is aiming to do the same in 2022.
"Decisions taken by the Comrades Marathon Association are primarily made with the health and safety of runners in mind. We aim to safeguard the wellbeing 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," said CMA Chairperson Cheryl Winn in a message to race stakeholders.
Winn also confirmed that they have submitted an application to KwaZulu Natal Athletics for the 90km race to be staged next spring. "CMA has submitted an application, which has been approved by KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA), for next year’s Comrades Marathon to be hosted on Sunday 28 August 2022," she revealed.
It is understood that there are some close to the CMA who had opposed that date on the grounds that August is too hot and Comrades traditionally takes place during the South African winter. But Winn insists that the date for the race between Durban and Pietermaritzburg has been moved several times in the past as dictated by the needs of society.
"There were several strong motivating factors which supported our application, but by far the most pertinent was that by doing so we will gain an additional two hours of daylight in which to stage our 12 hour event, which will undeniably serve the best interests of the safety of runners and volunteers, as well as enabling us to implement a staggered or wave start, as will inevitably be required going forward in terms of Covid regulations. The date of the 100-year-old Comrades Marathon has over the years shifted from as early as mid-May to as late as mid-July. Only as recently as 2018 did it eventually settle on the second Sunday in June, so, there is actually NO “traditional” date for Comrades," she argued.
But Winn's message did not commit to the number of participants that could be allowed to take part in a race that has been celebrated globally as a national treasure. However, her reference to a wave start and the 12-hour cutoff suggests a field of both elite and social runners which is then likely to have at least as many runners as the 10 000 that will run the Cape Town Marathon next month.
Winn says their main priority right now is to safely resume a race from which all South Africans benefit. "Our heartfelt sympathy to everyone who has suffered hardship or sacrifice brought on by this dreaded pandemic. 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 KZN and South Africa, for the next 100 years," she concluded.