The making of Comrades Marathon

As the excitement builds up to the keenly anticipated return of the comrades marathon on Sunday after a covid-19 pandemic-induced hiatus, City Press compiled the facts and figures that form the 89km ‘down run’ from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.


Starting at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall at 5.30am and ending 12 hours later at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, the official route distance for Sunday’s race is 89.885km. The 95th Comrades Marathon will be the 47th Down Run.


Along the route will be 43 fully stocked refreshment stations, where nearly 3 000 volunteers will serve water, energy drinks, bananas, oranges and cooked potatoes – and mahewu too!

READ: Many unknowns ahead of Comrades Marathon


The race will be beamed on SuperSport channels: SS Variety 4, SS Variety 3 Africa and SS Grandstand. The 13-hour broadcast of the race will begin in Pietermaritzburg at 5am. The 120-personnel production team will use 36 cameras along the route operated through six motorbikes to cover the elite men, women and chasing packs, and a rigged car with a specially adapted low-light camera to be used before sunrise, as well as a helicopter to give a bird’s eye view of the action. Nine-time Comrades winner Bruce Fordyce is among the six experts who will commentate on race day


There will be 30 15-seater buses, four 35-seater and 28 60-seater bailer buses on route to board the athletes who do not make the cut-offs or are unable to continue with the race. A runner who makes use of this facility can, under no circumstance, rejoin the race or collect a finisher’s medal.


On standby will be 14 ambulances, six rapid response vehicles, six motorbikes with paramedics and an air rescue helicopter. There will be eight Netcare medical stations and physio stations on route manned by qualified professional nurses, paramedical staff and physiotherapists.


11.30am: The first cut-off hooter will sound at 11.30am for the Wally Hayward medal, which is awarded to men’s runners from 11th position who finish in under six hours

1pm: This is for the silver and Isavel Roche-Kelly medals, which go to male runners who finish between six and seven-and-a-half hours and women runners from position 11 to the seven-and-a-half-hour cut-off

2.30pm: This is the cut-off for the Bill Rowan medal, which is awarded to those who finish in under nine hours. This medal is named in commemoration of the winner of the first Comrades Marathon in 1921, Bill Rowan, who won in a time of 8:59, which is also the slowest-winning time in the history of the race.

3.30pm: The cut-off for the Robert Mtshali medal, which is awarded to runners finishing between nine and 10 hours. The Robert Mtshali medal, which is made of titanium, was introduced at Comrades in 2019 in honour of Robert Mtshali, who in 1935 became the first unofficial black runner to finish the Comrades race when he crossed the line in a time of nine hours and 30 minutes. It was only 40 years later, in 1975, that the race was opened to all athletes for the first time, which allowed black runners and women to officially take part in the Comrades Marathon.

4.30pm: This is the stoppage time for the bronze medal, which is awarded to runners who finish in under 11 hours

5.30pm: The final cut-off for the Vic Clapham medal for those who will finish under the 12-hour time limit.

Source: Comrades Marathon Association