COMRADES MARATHON CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Commencing on Monday 24th May we are calling all Comrades runners, past and present, to join CMA in celebrating 100 years of the Comrades Marathon.

To commemorate the staging of the first Comrades Marathon on 24th May 1921, exactly 100 years to the day later, CMA will host a day of festivities at Comrades Marathon House in Pietermaritzburg.

The occasion’s activities will be live-streamed, and we invite Comrades runners and supporters in South Africa and around the world to follow the day’s proceedings from 09h00 – 15h00 on our website www.comrades.com, or on Facebook @ComradesMarathon.

With a guest list that sadly has had to be restricted owing to Covid-19 restrictions, but which includes all past Comrades winners living in South Africa, male runners who have completed 40 or more Comrades and female runners who have completed more than 30, CMA Elders, past Chairmen, current CMA Board and staff members, members of the Race Organising Committee, current sponsors, representatives of our Official Charities, and a number of very important Dignitaries, it is an occasion which will be marked with jubilation, gratitude and nostalgia, as well as humility and a note of solemnity, owing to the impact of the current pandemic, as we reflect upon where we came from, where we are today, and the remarkable journey of the past 100 years.

We will remember Comrades’ origins, owed primarily to the inspiration and tireless efforts of a humble railroad engine driver and soldier, Vic Clapham, who returned from war with the vision of staging a living memorial to the suffering, loss of life, spirit, fortitude and camaraderie of the soldiers with whom he had shared the devastation of World War I.

We will reflect upon the 34 starters, a ragtag bunch of mostly ex-soldiers, who lined up in front of  the Maritzburg City Hall in 1921 to commence an arduous 56 mile journey run entirely on dirt roads, crossing streams and passing through farm gates, the 16 participants who made it through to the finish at the Durban City Hall, and the 26-year-old farmer who was the first to get there in a time of 8 hours and 59 minutes, Bill Rowan.

And we will reflect upon and remember the incredible intervening history of how one man’s humble dream, would lure generations of fervent runners, of all demographics, creeds, nationalities and from all walks of life to tackle an extraordinary challenge that for many would change their lives forever.

We will recall the brave early pioneers (some of whom completed the distance unofficially when the race was restricted exclusively to white males), our winners, heroes and record-breakers who have consistently inspired us with ever-improving competitive performances, and we will celebrate the so-called ‘ordinary runners’ for whom there is nothing at all that is ‘ordinary’ and who embody the spirit of grit, determination, camaraderie, hope and humanity upon with the Comrades Marathon was founded.

We will pay homage to the many dedicated volunteers through the ages who struggled to keep the dream alive as participation dwindled to as low as 9 finishers in 1946, and the many passionate and committed individuals whose initiative, influence and at times courageous leadership enabled the race to grow into its renown of today, as the oldest footrace in Africa, the oldest greatest, most famous, popular and competitive ultramarathon in the world, and the most inclusive sporting event in South Africa.

We will express gratitude to the generous sponsors, past and present, loyal fans, government stakeholders, the incredibly supportive communities along the route, as well as an entire nation that joins in celebrating man’s triumph over adversity, and the camaraderie and spirit of The Ultimate Human Race.

The day will commence with a re-enactment of the Start of the first Comrades Marathon, with 34 runners setting off from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall to run the first 2.2km of the original Comrades Marathon route to join the assembled guests at Comrades Marathon House and Museum.

Their arrival will herald the start of the formal proceedings which will include the unveiling of a Centenary Memorial, entertainment, formal addresses from Dignitaries, less-formal speeches by special guests, more entertainment, and the cutting of a giant birthday cake.

It promises to be a day to remember and I really encourage all Comrades runners to join the celebrations virtually by following the livestream on our website www.comrades.com, or via our Facebook page @Comrades Marathon from 09h00 – 15h00 on Monday 24th May 2021.