Comrades 2024 Cutoffs: A lesson in gun control

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After the 2023 Comrades cutoffs cost several hundred runners their medal, some changes were expected in 2024. What was the net positive gain? 487 athletes converted despair to glory. These 487 would have been cutoff in 2024 had the times not been made more lenient. However, what is surprising, is that there is still resistance from certain members of the Board to make sensible adjustments to cutoff times.

What follows are details and in depth analysis of the who, how and what of cutoffs at Comrades 2024…

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Channelle Makhele: The Best Comeback at Comrades 2024

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When Channelle Makhele crossed the finish line in 9:28:20 at this year’s Comrades she knocked a massive 2h15 minutes off her debut run in 2019. Whilst this is an impressive achievement, it was only good enough to earn her 124th position on the most improved list. However, it’s her response to her DNF in 2023 that earns her the accolade of best comeback at Comrades 2024.

Channelle’s 2023 run is documented here: The Nightmare on Epworth Street (Safety negligence at Comrades breaks bones and shatters dreams). Her run ended before the 5km mark on the Nightmare on Epworth Street with a badly fractured fibula. Not realising the seriousness of her injury, and in an incredible feat of sheer bloody-mindedness, Channelle refused to throw in the towel and decided to try and walk to Durban. She got as far as the Fat Cats seconding crew at Umlaas Road (24km into the race) before calling it a day and ended up spending the night in hospital.

Last year I left Channelle’s story at, “One major operation later to realign the joint and put in a plate and screws, and Channelle faced six weeks before she even gets to the start line on the long road to recovery and rehabilitation.”  Here’s what happened next…

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Sign Up to the CMA Today or The Grim Racist could be your next Chairperson

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On the 18th of June Comrades Board member Zinhle Sokhela posted a blatantly racist message to the official Comrades Corporate Governance WhatsApp group. Sokhela was immediately asked to resign from the Board but requested the opportunity to ‘go away and think about it’. She thought about it, had a few shouting matches with other Board members and said ‘no thanks I’m staying put’. She was apparently more concerned with who had reported her indiscretion than the indiscretion itself.

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What’s New & Improved at Comrades 2024?

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As someone who had plenty to say about what went wrong at Comrades 2023, it gives me great pleasure to write an article about what’s going right at Comrades 2024.

Much of the credit for the positive changes can be attributed to newly appointed Race & Operations Manager, Ann Ashworth, who left her career as an advocate to take up the position in November 2023. Under her leadership there’s renewed energy, innovation and an attention to detail that has been lacking for many years.

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Giving Comrades plenty of Greeff

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Comrades is an event that involves the whole family. For most it is just one member of the family that is actually running but the entire family will have their routines and social activities rescheduled around their Comrades runner’s requirements. In households with kids where both partners run, careful coordination, negotiation and planning is required to ensure that everyone gets in enough distance to secure a medal in June.

However, for some families it’s not just weddings and funerals that brings them together. For these families, Comrades becomes a big day out and a fantastic family outing. Mark, Kathleen, Matthew, Daniel and Joshua Greeff are one such family.

The Greeff family after the Trac N4 Elands Marathon (note Mark’s 1990 Comrades shirt which he only brings out for special occasions).
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Comrades 2024: Polly Shortts cutoff likely to kill the dreams of hundreds

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The good news is that we’ll see runners on the field during the last minute before cutoff this year. The bad news is that we’ll still be a few hundred runners short of a full field.

After the cutoff debacle at Comrades 2023, the Comrades 2024 cutoffs were always going to come under scrutiny. When the original Comrades 2024 cutoffs were published, several people pointed out some serious potential flaws. It was encouraging to see that new Race and Operations Manager, Ann Ashworth, listened to the feedback and took them back for review.

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Top 10 Conspiracy Theories Behind the Crazy Comrades Cutoffs

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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…

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Concerned Response to Comrades’ “Response to concerns” press release

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Great accomplishments can be achieved in seven weeks or less. Examples include the construction of the main structure of the Empire State Building, the complete filming schedule of ‘Gone with the Wind’ (one of the most iconic films of all time) and the entire recording and production of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ (the best-selling album of all time).

Likewise many great books are written in a short period of time like Jack Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’ (3 weeks), Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ (6 weeks – to meet the publishing deadline for the Christmas rush), John Boyne’s ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ (first draft written in 2.5 days) and Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ (3 days). Even Hunter S. Thompson’s drug-fuelled gonzo journalism classic ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ was written over a short period (although the author is not sure of the exact time frame).

Seven weeks after Comrades 2023, the below press release was finally published. It is unlikely to be named in any future classic compositions lists although it is up there with the last season of Game of Thrones in terms of disappointing let-downs – one or two good moments but the audience was expecting a lot more after waiting all that time. The only thing slower than the wheels of justice in South Africa is the pedestrian pace with which the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) operates.

“Response to Comrades Marathon runners’ concerns” media release from the Comrades Marathon Association.
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15 Major Concerns & Problems after Comrades 2023

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Below are the contents of a letter sent to the Comrades Chairperson Mqondisi Ngcobo on 9 July ahead of the Comrades debriefing sessions (which were held from 10 – 12 July). It outlines major issues from the 2023 event reported by runners. I have also taken the liberty of providing some suggestions to address the issues.

It has now been one-and-a-half months since Comrades was held and there has been no publicly shared plans, actions or accountability from the CMA. The biggest fear is that the the problems will be swept under the carpet and with no root causes being addressed.

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