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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'Qualifying times are there for a reason' - KZNA sends warning as Comrades qualifying season open

As a we enter a new month with warmer days ahead, many runners who have been dormant throughout winter will start dusting off those running shoes to begin pounding the pavements once more. And if your goal is to run 90km on 9 June 2024, then you will celebrate spring because it means the beginning of Comrades qualification season. For some though, simply qualifying for one of South Africa's famed ultra marathons can be a difficult undertaking. How ever challenging it may be, KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA) President Steve Mkasi is pleading with runners to obey the qualification rules and stay away from cheating.

"We appeal to clubs to please educate their members, runners, to ensure compliance with all rules applicable in the safe guarding of our sport. We are entering the phase when qualification for the 2024 Two Oceans Marathon as well as the Comrades Marathon will begin. We remind athletes that It is an offence for any person to submit false information of any kind on a race entry form. The deliberate falsification of qualifying times constitutes an act of fraud, and both race organisers and provincial and national athletics authorities have vowed to clamp down on the perpetrators," said a KZNA Circular issued ahead of the ultra marathon qualification season.

Runners celebrate their achievement at the finish line of the 2023 Comrades Marathon. Photo Credit: CMA Media.

But those who know Mkasi's history as a runner and administrator will be quick point out that his plea is tantamount to the pot calling the kettle black. That is because the man who earned his Comrades Green Number when he completed this year's Down Run, was once found was once in hot water with the organisers of the Two Oceans Marathon. Mkasi served a two-year suspension from running the World's Most Beautiful Ultra Marathon following a debacle involving the use of his race number.

"In 2018, just a week before Two Oceans, I fell very sick. Whilst I travelled to Cape Town, thinking I will recover in time for the race it was never to be. As you you would know, you need to qualify to run Oceans. So I had already qualified. 2018 was going to be my seventh Ultra. Word travels fast and soon someone who thought they had entered the race but was unfortunately not, was in Cape Town. Knowing that I was not running, he used my number and ran. This was unfortunate. I never cheated in any race. I’ve never submitted a time not run by myself," he told #TheTopRunner.

KZNA President Steve Mkasi. Photo Credit: Durban International Marathon.

But aside from the legal ramifications of someone else using your race number, the more serious consequences of falling foul of qualification rules is a health one. Life and death, to be specific. As the KZNA Circular correctly points out asking someone else to qualify for an ultra marathon on your behalf, suggests that you are not capable of running that qualifying time and could pay the ultimate price for your lack of conditioning on race day.

"Qualifying times are there for a reason, namely, to ensure that participant shave at least a minimal level of fitness and ability in order to have a reasonable prospect of safely completing the distance (ie Two Oceans and Comrades). Therefore, misrepresenting a qualifying time, presents a genuine and potentially serious health risk. Transgressors also run the risk of disciplinary action, disqualification and suspension, as well as the further risk of being publicly identified (naming and shaming) with all the associated reputational risks."

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