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 SuperSport from 05:30 on Sunday 11 June as 20,000 local and international runners set off for the 2023 Comrades marathon.

SuperSport will cover the entire race from 5am to 6pm on SS Variety 4 with a dedicated feed focusing on the women’s race on SS Variety 2 from 5.15am to 11.30am.

Runners will have 12 hours after the gun goes off to reach the finish line at Hollywoodbets Kingsmead Stadium, approximately 87.7km from the start outside City Hall in Pietermartizburg.

The route profile

This year is a “down run” as runners set off from Pietermartizburg towards Durban. 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. Polly Shortts (rising 100m in 1,8km)
  2. Inchanga (rising 150m in 2,5km)
  3. Botha’s Hill (rising 150m over 2,4km)
  4. Field’s Hill (rising 213m over 3km)
  5. Cowies Hill (rising 137m over 1,5km)

Even though it is called the “down run”. there are also numerous smaller named and unnamed climbs in between the big hills. Total elevation gain on the “down run” is approximately 1400m.

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 5h20 mark, which is just before 11:00 am local time. The first lady should enter the stadium at around 11:30 am local time, with Gerda Steyn widely tipped to break Frith van der Merwe’s longstanding Down Run record of 5:54:43, set in 1989. You won’t want to miss that, so tune in from around 11:10 am.

Both the male and female winner will receive R500,000, with an extra R500,000 on offer for any athlete who breaks the current “down run” record.

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 – 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!