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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Kelehe welcomes increase in Comrades Prize Money as Cell C pumps in the cash

As one of the most vocal critics of the decrease in the Comrades Marathon prize money in 2022, Gift Kelehe has welcomed the Comrades Marathon Association's (CMA) decision to up the total prize purse ahead of the 2024 edition of the much loved ultra marathon. Thanks to an injection of funds by new sponsor Cell C, this year the winning man and woman will walk away with R825 000 each for crossing the finish line first, which represents a 65% increase on the half a million that was on offer in 2023. Kelehe says it's long overdue.

"We welcome the decision to increase the prize money because we have been calling for this for a long time that the winner should at least be paid a million Rand. I have been calling for this since 2017. So we are happy for that," said the man who won the race back in 2015 to become one half of the only pair of brothers to have won the race following his elder brother Andrew Kelehe's victory in 2001.

With less than a month to go until race day, Cell C signed on as a new top tier sponsor of the Comrades Marathon. Photo Credit: CMA Media.

Gift who claimed ninth place last year has also praised newly appointed Race Director Ann Ashworth (a former winner of the race herself) for innovating the race by introducing new features such as specialised elite athlete seconding stations which are commonplace at many of the big city marathons around the globe.

"I can see that Comrades Marathon is aligning itself with other big races around the world by bringing the seconding tables. That's good. Now we would like to see them inviting the elite athletes and pay them and appearance fee," added the man who is coached by legendary Comrades coach John Hamlett.

Kelehe embraces his daughter at the finish line at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban after claiming a seventh gold medal. He finished the 2023 race in 5:27:52. Photo Credit: Cuan Walker.

Even better news for the elite athletes that will contest the Up Run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg on the 9th of June is that the increase in the prize money which now puts the overall purse at just over R2 million, excludes any added incentives for finishing as the first South African or first KwaZulu-Natal Athletics runner. It also excludes the Cell C Hot spot prizes totalling R100,000 will be awarded to the first male and female runners through the Cato Ridge timing mat, situated approximately 56.6km into the challenging 85.91km route.

Ashworth says the revival of the Comrades Hot Spots has been done to reward athletes who are fastest through Cato Ridge, while simultaneously encouraging top runners to carefully manage their pace to ensure they finish the race strong. "The Cell C Hot Spot prizes aim to celebrate athletic talent and encourage running excellence. We are really pleased to be able to reintroduce these offerings with the assistance of Cell C, a new Tier 1 partner to the Comrades Marathon."

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