Following on from the in-depth look at the Comrades Marathon Association’s decision not to refund 2020 entrants, this article evaluates the ‘refund / no refund’ decisions of South Africa’s other large marathons and ultras who’ve been forced to cancel their 2020 events during the coronavirus pandemic.
At lunch time on 14May, I was taking advantage of a gap between video calls by doing another lockdown run up and down my driveway.
As you can imagine, driveway laps are not particularly interesting and I welcome any distraction from the monotony. Therefore, every vibration on my phone results in an excited glance at the screen to see whatever notification has been delivered.
I was asked to submit a “Running Mann-style” presentation for the Business Agility Africa conference. The accepted topic was, “What the Comrades Marathon tells you about Agile Transformations” and ended up being the final of 21 presentations from speakers representing 6 countries.
Before the presentation, several of the 170 delegates asked, “How the hell do you relate Comrades to agile transformations?” After the presentation, they were left in no doubt! The presentation combines stats and stories from the great ultra running event on the planet – and I even managed to work in “The Agile Running Mannifesto!” Continue reading “What the Comrades Marathon tells you about Agile Transformations”
This article provides detailed information on all South Africa’s January 2020 marathons including race descriptions and recommendations.
South African marathons go on hiatus from the beginning of December until the middle of January. As a marathon running obsessive, I normally get withdrawal symptoms during the break (symptoms include a lethargy in the legs and a noticeable swelling in the belly) so I try to get my first marathon of the year done at the earliest opportunity. The good news is that there are seven magnificent options to choose from in January.
The Tony Viljoen Masters Marathon in East London was started in the late 1970s as a way to encourage athletes to continue participating in athletics events after they’d “past their prime”. In East London, “past your prime” is considered “over 35” – and the inaugural race in 1978 had a strict “no under-35s” restriction.
Four decades later and the rules have been relaxed to allow youngsters to run the race socially. However, this is a marathon that specifically caters to the older generation and prizes are only awarded for those born before 1984. These are awarded in five-year brackets from 35-39 all the way through to the oldest finisher.
This year it stopped at 75-79 in the ladies’ section of the race with the 75-year-old Paula Richardson finishing in 5:20. In the men’s field, the incredible 84-year-old Caspar Greeff pushed the finish categories all the way to the 80-84 division with a 5:30 finish. In doing so he became the oldest ever finisher of the race and probably set the record as the oldest South African to complete a marathon*.
* I’ve checked with those in the know and no one could identify any older marathon finishers in South Africa. Riël Hauman, the demure and normally sedate statistician, added “Caspar is a freak!”
The Comrades Marathon is a lot like a nasty big brother that sadistically bullies, torments and tortures his weaker siblings. As one of those weaker siblings, I’ve received more than my fair share of merciless moers, violent lammies and vicious donkey klaps at the annual family reunion between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. I feel this entitles me to have an opinion and say what I like about Comrades – and occasionally I repay my serial brutalisation with a playful retort or gentle jab of my own (before running away, slowly). That is the God-given right of a ‘family’ member*.
* For example, one of the article ideas on my backlog is ’10 Things I Hate about Comrades’ but the list of things has grown so long it may in fact form the content of my first full-length book.
However, when someone outside the ‘family’ callously condescends your brutal big brother, all past grievances are forgotten, all past sins are forgiven, and all the scars and bruises from past battles become prized signs of affection. When someone outside the circle of trust insults a member of one’s household, the correct response is to immediately – and without hesitation – take up arms (or in the case of Comrades, legs) to defend the family honour. That is exactly what happened recently when the insolent, ill-informed and ignorant American ultra runner Jim Walmsley condescended Comrades with a reckless remark. Continue reading “Drug Running at Comrades (and discrediting American ignorance)”
It is the middle of October 2018 and entries have just opened for next year’s Comrades Marathon. The entries are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. Runners, particularly those from lower income groups, raise concerns that all 25,000 entries will be sold before they get paid at the end of the month and have the funds to enter.
After seeing several social media posts from anxious athletes, I decided to do a small good deed aligned with the spirit of Comrades: Offer an interest free, trust-based loan to five Comrades runners. I’d pay for their entry and they can pay me back when they have the money to do so. This is the story of what happened…
There is no human alive who loves the Comrades Marathon more than Dave Jack. He’s had had a six-decade long love affair with the race – and his unbridled passion shows no sign of abating anytime soon. Dave’s run it 14 times, done live reports on the event for Radio 702 for 18 years driving alongside the race leaders, stadium announcing and prize-giving MCing for over a decade. He’s served on the Comrade Organising Committee (the forerunner to the Comrades Marathon Association) and is one of the very few people to have earned a ‘running’ Green Number (for 10 finishes) and well as a ‘serving’ Green Name (for 10 years or more in service of the race).
Dave told me, “I’ve done everything there is to do at Comrades except win the race!” Well, actually that’s not quite true – and that is why I am writing this article. But the story of how Dave Jack won the 2018 ladies race takes some explaining and requires a detailed backstory – so here goes…
On a cool spring morning in September 2016, Dani Smith pulled into the Engen Service Station in Woodmead. He was looking forward to filling up quickly and getting back home after visiting his local garden nursery. Dani Smith is a Comrades runner – and was easy to identify as such because, like most of his ilk, he proudly wore his Comrades race shirt as standard weekend attire. Continue reading “Fuelling the Comrades Gold Rush (The story of Charles Mkhonto)”