written by Mike Bath
The Comrades Marathon medal has remained true in size and design since its inception in 1921. There are some that speak slightingly of its size and general appearance as being insignificant, but as Morris Alexander wrote in his book " The Comrades Marathon Story":
"No sports medals have ever been so dearly won and cherished as the Comrades Marathon medals. It was surely an original stroke of genius on the part of Comrades founder Vic Clapham to reward with these medals the efforts of all those who completed the course within the prescribed time"
The medal is 29mm in diameter and depicts the words "COMRADES MARATHON" and "MARITZBURG - DURBAN" encircling a striding figure of Hermes with winged feet and helmet. It would seem that the figure of Hermes was chosen as the emblem of Comrades Marathon on the basis of his renown as the messenger of the gods according to Greek mythology. He was also the god of land travel and the patron of roads and his relevance to Comrades can perhaps be drawn from this connection.
||The first medal awarded in 1921 was a SILVER MEDAL which was awarded to all finishers of the event up until 1931. An exception to this rule was a special bronze medal awarded to LEW Pearson who completed the distance in a time of 12hrs 20min in 1921.
||1931 saw the introduction of the GOLD MEDAL, awarded to the first 6 men.
||1972 saw the major change of ten Gold medals being awarded, Silver to those runners completing the race in sub 7hrs 30min and those completing the race in sub 11hrs 00min receiving a BRONZE MEDAL.
In 1980, because of the cost of gold and silver, the quality of the medals was down graded. Gold medals became sterling silver medals plated with gold and Silver medals were to be silver plating over 'high quality gilding metal'.
||2000, the millennium year, saw the introduction a new medal, the BILL ROWAN for those achieving a time from 7hrs 30min to sub 9hrs 00min, a medal with a bronze centre circled by a silver ring and named after Bill Rowan the winner of the first Comrades in 1921. His winning time being 8hrs 59min, therefore anyone winning a Bill Rowan would have complete the event faster than the winner of the first race.
||A new copper medal, the fifth in the series, was added in 2003 with the introduction of the VIC CLAPHAM medal for those finishing from 11hrs 00min to sub 12hrs 00min. This coincides with the increase in the time allocation for completing the event from sub 11hrs to sub 12hrs.
The Comrades Marathon Back-to-Back medal was introduced in 2005 and henceforth was awarded to novice runners who complete an 'up or down run' in succession. In terms of the implementation thereof, Back-to-Back medals were automatically awarded to 2005 Comrades Marathon finishers who had completed their first Comrades Marathon in 2004. As with any new innovation, the award was never intended to be retrospective, owing to administrative restrictions. However, in response to popular demand, the CMA have decided to make the Back-to-Back medal available for purchase to runners who have previously fulfilled the criteria of completing both an 'up' and a 'down' Comrades Marathon.
||A new medal - the “Wally Hayward” - was introduced in 2007. The Comrades Marathon Association wanted to honour one of South Africa’s greatest athletes, and at the same time to recognise the outstanding performances of elite athletes who narrowly miss a gold medal. This new medal is awarded to those who do not finish in the top 10, yet complete the race within six hours. The late Wally Hayward was one of the greatest ever Comrades Marathon runners. His seven medals included five wins, three of them record breaking runs. He had a remarkable Comrades career spanning 60 years. Wally remains the oldest person ever to finish the race.
Medals Currently Awarded
||First 10 men and first 10 women
|Wally Hayward Medals
||Position 11 to sub 6hrs 00min
||6hrs 00min to sub 7hrs 30min
|Bill Rowan Medals
||7hrs 30min to sub 9hrs 00min
||9hrs 00min to sub 11hrs 00min
||11hrs 00min to sub 12hrs 00min
On only three occasions has the medal changed in size and design. The size of the commemorative medal has remained constant at 40mm diameter although the design of the medal has been specific to the occasion.
1975 - A special medal was struck to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Comrades Marathon. This medal bore a commemorative '50'.
1988 - A special medal was struck to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the City of Pietermaritzburg.
2000 - A special medal was struck to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Comrades Marathon and the Millennium Race. This was one of the few medals to change the wording "MARITZBURG - DURBAN" to read "DURBAN - MARITZBURG".
In 2005 the 80th year the world famous event was held, saw a subtle but distinct difference for 2005 medal. The traditional Comrades Marathon medal has not changed in 80 years - it is both humble and precious, so CMA do not tamper with the actual medal. However, the 2005 date bar attached to the medal was specially designate of the 80th celebrations and was attached to a special commemorative ribbon.
Medals in the women's race
Women were first acknowledged in 1975 with them being awarded Bronze Medals.
- From 1979 to 1981 a Silver Medal was awarded to the 1st Woman.
- In 1983 a Gold Medal was introduced for the 1st Woman.
- In 1988 Gold Medals were awarded to the first 3 Women and in 1995 this was increased to the first 5 Women.
- From 1998 the first 10 Women were awarded Gold Medals, the same as the men's event.