A gala event marking 100 years since the first Comrades Marathon hosted on 24 May 1921, was hosted at the Comrades Marathon House in Pietermaritzburg today.
Among the guests were former Comrades winners living in South Africa, male Comrades Quadruple Green Number holders who have completed 40 or more Comrades, and female Triple Green Number runners who have completed more than 30 editions of The Ultimate Human Race. CMA Elders, former Chairpersons, current CMA Board and Staff members, members of the Race Organising Committee, current sponsors, representatives of the Official Comrades Charities, were also present
CMA Chairperson, Cheryl Winn, said the Comrades owed its origins primarily to the inspiration and tireless efforts of a humble railroad engine driver and soldier, Vic Clapham. He returned from the war with the vision of staging a living memorial to the suffering, loss of life, spirit, fortitude and camaraderie of the soldiers with whom he had shared the devastation of World War I.
“A significant aspect of the day is recalling the brave early pioneers – some of whom completed the distance unofficially when the race was restricted exclusively to white males; our winners, heroes and record-breakers who have consistently inspired us with ever-improving competitive performances; and we will celebrate the so-called ‘ordinary runners’ for whom there is nothing at all that is ‘ordinary’, and who embody the spirit of grit, determination, camaraderie, hope and humanity upon with the Comrades Marathon was founded,” she said.
Winn said the event pays homage to the many dedicated volunteers through the ages who struggled to keep the dream alive as participation dwindled to as low as 9 finishers in 1946, and the many passionate and committed individuals whose initiative and courageous leadership, enabled the race to grow to its current status, as the most famous, popular and competitive ultra-marathon in the world.
The CMA Board expressed gratitude to the generous sponsors, past and present, loyal fans, government stakeholders, the incredibly supportive communities along the route, as well as an entire nation that joins in celebrating man’s triumph over adversity, and the camaraderie and spirit of The Ultimate Human Race.
The day’s festivities kicked off with the 1921 Comrades Marathon Tribute Run, a symbolic 2.2km re-enactment of the 1921 Comrades Marathon which saw 34 starters take off from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall. Unlike the 90km footrace, this Tribute Run finished at Comrades House.