'We appreciate what the CMA is doing' - Kelehe on increase in Comrades prize purse
As one of the most outspoken critics of the reduction in the iconic race's prize purse, Gift Kelehe is happy with the Comrades Marathon Association's (CMA) decision to increase the prize money. On Saturday 28 April, organizers of the 90km race announced that the 2023 winners would walk away with a total of R4.31-million, which amounts to a 90% increase on last year’s R2.27 million total winnings. This means that if Tete Dijana can defend his title then he will pocket half a million ran as opposed to the R260 000 he got for winning the 2022 event.
"We really appreciate what the Comrades Marathon association is doing by increasing the prize money from R260 000 to R500 000 because the previous amount was a slap in the face," said Kelehe who took home R375 000 for winning the 2015 edition of The Ultimate Human Race.
The most significant increases will be enjoyed by the podium finishers on June 11 who will earn almost double what they would have received when the race was last run on 28 August 2022. The first man and woman to reach Durban on the run from Pietermaritzburg will win half a million Rand, with second and third overall showing similar increases; from R130.000 to R250.000 for the runner-up and R90.000 to R180.000 for third position.
These adjustments which also apply to the age categories are the strongest signal yet that the 100-year-old race has survived the turbulent times brought on by the onset of the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 because the current prize purse mirrors what the top runners would have won had the 2020 edition of the race gone ahead. Having made no secret about the difficult financial times they had to endure, the Comrades Marathon Association's decision has left Kelehe bullish about the prospects of the prize money increasing even further in the near future.
Kelehe believes that it's only a matter of time before the CMA rewards a Comrades winner with a million Rand. "I talked to the Race director Rowyn James in 2017 and said to him that Comrades is long overdue to be paying a winner a million Rand. Let's give them a chance to work on this because it's possible, they can do it. They can pay a winner a million Rand if they want - they have the capability to do that," said the man coached by John Hamlett who has confirmed that he will run the race on June 11.
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 Comrades 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 R 60.000 respectively.