Having studied the data, consulted with the experts and trawled through the wisdom of social media, I am still unable to determine any rationality behind the Pinetown and Sherwood cutoff times at Comrades 2023. Therefore, inspired by the Sherlock Holmes quote, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”, I have come up with this comprehensive set of conspiracy theories to explain the mysteriously illogical Comrades 2023 cutoff times.
Some of these conspiracy theories will contradict each other, some possess small slivers of truth, all contain healthy doses of undiluted nonsense – put them together and you have the perfect ingredients for a quality collection of ludicrous conspiracy theories…
Like Cadbury’s chocolate slabs, which have steadily shrunk from 100g to 80g, there is a secret plot at Comrades House to slowly shrink both the distance (hence the shortest course in Down Run history this year) and the finisher numbers.
You still pay the same price for an 80g slab of as you did for the 100g slab. There was no increase the in R1200 entry fee this year – you paid the same price for 87km that you did for 90km. The reduced distance means that your rand per kilometre ratio is steadily dropping. Likewise, the crafty cutoffs are the method to right size the Comrades field down to 80g. We’re onto your sneaky tricks and nefarious ways Comrades marketing department.
2. 22 off 1 ball
The bloke who came up with the system used as the 1992 Cricket World Cup was asked to calculate the Comrades cutoff times. We went from challenging but doable “22 of 13” 2022 cutoff times to the equivalent of “22 off 1 ball” cutoffs. Just be thankful there was no rain on the 11th of June or you’d really have got screwed over.
Here’s an interesting quote from cricket writer John Woodcock after the 1992 semi-final debacle that parallels Comrades 2023, “South Africa’s chances of reaching the final floundered on a rule which no-one had bothered to think through. For so important an event to be reduced at times to a lottery must have been a source of great embarrassment to the organisers, though to the best of my knowledge they came nowhere near to admitting it.”
3. Joggers can never be faster than ‘real runners’
The entire Comrades Marathon Association had a corporate fun run from Sherwood to Kingsmead. It was highly competitive and everyone gave it a flat out, best effort. The fastest time on record for any CMA member to cover the tortuous 6.39km from Sherwood to Kingsmead was just over one hour.
All CMAers self-identified as bona fide ‘real runners’. They therefore sensibly deduced that it would impossible for a feeble back-of-back jogger at Comrades to complete the last 6.4km faster than them and set the final cutoff at one hour.
4. New Walls of Honour
The Comrades marketing team is currently looking for new revenue streams. Overlooking the Valley of a Thousand Hills, the existing Wall of Honour contains thousands of bricks purchased by runners who have an official Comrades finish. Each bricks costs R600 and displays the runner’s name and Comrades race number.
The Wall of Honour has been a tremendous success, so why not embark on an expansion plan? New Walls of Honour at the Pinetown and Sherwood cutoff points to commemorate the fallen soldiers who were shot in the back on their way to Durban will help to increase the Comrades coffers and ensure that the CMA’s doughnut budget, currently under threat in 2024, is not compromised.
5. Standard grade or lower grade
The Down Run is already ‘Standard Grade’ Comrades. Runners like Campbell “the Great” Nel (see above) will tell you about his Green Number and, if you don’t have an escape route and have to carry on listening, he’ll also tell you that he only counts his Up runs as a ‘real Comrades finish’ (in fact he can’t wait to finish his next four Up runs so that he can tell you about his ‘real’ Green Number). However, with the super short 2023 distance, the CMA were worried that they’d slip all the way into ‘Lower Grade’ 30% pass mark territory. The stringent Pinetown and Sherwood cutoff times were a commendable effort to maintain standards.
6. Meddling peddlers
Bad news guys, cyclists have infiltrated our sport. At the Tour de France, the last stage is ceremonial and tradition dictates that it is dedicated to celebrating victory. There are not many current runners on the CMA which has allowed cycling moles to subvert and pollute the rich history of Comrades. As such, these pesky peddlers decided to turn Comrades into a cutoff-to-cutoff stage race culminating with the “Sprint to Sherwood”. Once Sherwood is reached, victory can be celebrated over a ceremonial 6.4km where runners can wave to crowds and sip champagne as they amble to Kingsmead at a pedestrian pace of 9:30/km.
7. Meddling with the medal count
Basic maths failed the CMA this year. A substantial portion of the Silver medallists did not receive their shiny bling after crossing the finish line and several Back-to-Back runners also left Kingsmead one medal short.
Realising that the stock of Vic Clapham medals was not likely to be enough, the CMA leapt into action and proactively removed a few hundred aspirant Clapham medallists from the road to avoid these participants experiencing the disappointment of finishing in the last 5 minutes and not getting a medal. The CMA should be commended for their quick-thinking and empathy.
8. Cable theft
Building on from the above conspiracy theory, we all know that cable theft, where thieves steal the copper electricity cables and then sell them to scrap metal dealers, is a big problem in South Africa. The Vic Clapham medal is made from copper, copper is in high demand – I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
9. The RJ Society for Jogger Eradication
There is secret society of jogger-hating ex-runners within the CMA. We all know how frustrating it is when we are injured and cannot run. Imagine how frustrated you’d be if you can no longer run at all? We should have some empathy for these “back in my day runners”, well past their prime, whose running days are long gone. Coming from such fine pedigrees, it would be unfair to expect them to denigrate themselves to the level of a mere jogger.
According to sources deep within the backside of Comrades House, this subversive sect is known as the “Remove Jogger” or “RJ Society” (although the secret society bears the same initials as the Comrades Race Director, I am assured that this is pure coincidence).
For years, members of the RJ Society have suffered the excruciating mental torture of having to watch hordes of joggers walk up Polly Shortts*, the audacity of so-called Comrades runners with distinctly non-athletic builds proudly showing off their finishers medals, and having to deal with the knowledge that “you can basically just walk Comrades in 12 hours.”
* This is also the real reason why we keep on having Down runs.
They RJs have previously turned to the legislature to change the rules in an effort to eradicate the scourge of jogging at Comrades. This was why marathon qualification times were introduced in the first place and also why the minimum qualification time was subsequently reduced from 5 hours to 4h50.
However, despite the best efforts of the RJ Society, the joggers just kept getting faster and thwarted their plans. If they were not able to stop the joggers from starting Comrades, the only option left for the RJ Society was to ensure they could prevent as many joggers as possible from finishing the race.
10. Cosafa Cup
In March, it was announced that the finish of the 96th Comrades Marathon would move from the Moses Mabhida Stadium to Kingsmead because of a clash with the Cosafa Cup Football Tournament.
No doubt Rowyn and the team wanted to dash off after the final cutoff to watch the exciting football fixture just down the road. Having to wait for a few stragglers to cross the finish line would mean that our hardworking CMA team would miss the kick-off and their chance to relax after a gruelling day of patting themselves on the back.
By the way, anyone know what the score of the big soccer game at Moses Mabhida on 11 June was?
* For those interested in football, the Cosafa Cup runs from July 5 to 16. According to Wikipedia edit history, the last time the fixture dates were updated was December 2022. You can view the itinerary here, none of the Cosafa Cup matches were held at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Disclaimer: Hopefully I don’t need to say this but this article is a work of satire and should not be taken seriously.Follow Running Mann: