Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 142, June 2021 Issue 142, June 2021 - Page 28

COMRADES CENTENARY

HAPPY BIRTHDAY , COMRADES !

On 24 May , the Comrades Marathon Association celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the first Comrades Marathon on 24 May 1921 , with a commemorative Centenary Run and gala event at Comrades House in Pietermaritzburg . With a veritable who ’ s who of Comrades history in attendance , it was a fitting way to celebrate a century of the Ultimate Human Race , even if COVID restrictions meant that the actual race could not be held for the second year in a row . – BY SEAN FALCONER

In 1921 a small group of runners lined up in front of the Pietermaritzburg City Hall in the early morning sunshine . Of the 48 who had entered the race , only 34 made it to the start , and when the race officially ended 12 hours later , only 16 had made it to the finish in Durban ( with one more finishing after the 12-hour cut-off ). It was the start of something great . It was the first Comrades Marathon .

The race was born out of the First World War ( 1914- 18 ). Former soldier Vic Clapham came up with the idea of a foot race between Maritzburg and Durban , with the goal of rekindling the camaraderie built up amongst Allied troops during the long years in the trenches . He was initially denied permission to stage the race , but in 1921 got the go-ahead to organise the race under the auspices of the Comrades of the Great War association , which loaned him £ 1 with which to organise everything – and he had to pay back every penny of that loan !
Everything about that first Comrades was done as simply and as cost-effectively as possible . Clapham ’ s sons helped out by cycling around Maritzburg to advertise the race . Their next task was to use their bicycles to go wake all the entrants on the morning of the race , and then they hitched a ride to Durban on the luggage van in order to help tend to the runners along the way .
CHALLENGING CONDITIONS
In the 1920s , the roads between Maritzburg and Durban were not tarred , and had a covering layer of red dust that measured up to five centimetres deep in places . Those who managed to finish the race were somewhat unrecognisable by the time they reached
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