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A spectator’s guide to the Comrades Marathon A spectator’s guide to the Comrades Marathon
Whether you’re a runner, a fan or simply a passionate South African who enjoys a bit of tradition, you’ll undoubtedly have your TV tuned... A spectator’s guide to the Comrades Marathon

Whether you’re a runner, a fan or simply a passionate South African who enjoys a bit of tradition, you’ll undoubtedly have your TV tuned to SABC 2 from 05:30 on Sunday (9 June) as over 20,000 local and international runners set off for the 2019 Comrades marathon.

Runners will have 12 hours after the gun goes off to reach the finish line at Scottsville Race Course, approximately 87km from the start at Durban City Hall.

The route profile

This year is the 48th “up run” in Comrades history. Runners must reach specific points along the route before specific cut-off times to make it to the finish.

Along the way runners will need to conquer the “Big Five” hills:

  1. Cowies Hill (rising 137m over 1,5km)
  2. Field’s Hill (rising 213m over 3km)
  3. Botha’s Hill (rising 150m over 2,4km)
  4. Inchanga (rising 150m in 2,5km)
  5. Polly Shortts (rising 100m in 1,8km)

There are also numerous smaller named and unnamed climbs in between the big hills. Total elevation gain on the “up run” is approximately 1900m.

4 key moments to watch

For the couch supporter, 12 hours is a long time to watch a running race, but there are numerous memorable moments that you won’t want to miss.

1. The start

The broadcast starts at 05:00 am. It’s worth waking up the extra 30 minutes earlier to catch participants singing the National anthem and Shosholoza, before Chariots of Fire plays over the PA system and, finally, Max Trimborn’s recorded cock-crow, which precedes the cannon shot that starts the race.

2. The winners

The male winner is expected to cross the finish line around the 5h30 mark, which is 11:00 am local time. The first lady should enter the stadium just after 11:30 am local time, with the expected finish time in the region of 6h10.

Both the male and female winner will receive R500,000, with an extra R500,000 on offer for any athlete who breaks the current “up run” record. That’s Leonid Shvetsov’s men’s record of 5h24m39s set in 2008 or Elena Nurgalieva’s women’s record of 6h09m24s set in 2006.

3. The medal cut-offs

Runners who cross the finish line in under 6 hours and are outside the top 10 receive a coveted Wally Hayward medal,

Female athletes who finish under 7h30 and outside the top 10 will receive the Isavel Roche-Kelly medal – a new medal introduced for the first time in 2019. Men who finish in under 7h30 receive a Silver medal.

The Bill Rowan medal cut-off happens 9 hours after the start, at 2:30 pm. The new Robert Mtshali medal will go to those who follow in under 10 hours (3:30 pm finish), with Bronze medals given to athletes who complete the run within the 11-hour cut-off at 4:30 pm.

4. The final cut-off

The most dramatic and emotional moment of the day happens at 5:30 pm when the gun for the final 12-hour cut-off is fired at the finish line. Any athlete who makes it home before this point will earn themselves a Vic Clapham finishers medal. Prepare yourself for gut-wrenching images as runners are left strewn on the floor or walk in having just failed to achieve their goal.

It’s an emotional yet spectacular journey for both participants and spectators and an annual event on the South African sporting calendar that shouldn’t be missed!

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