Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 152 August 2022 | Page 34


Raising Comrades Spirits

With so many livelihoods decimated by COVID and with unemployment in South Africa at an all-time high , the price of entry into the 2022 Comrades Marathon has proven an insurmountable barrier for some aspirant participants , which is why Dr Tom Boyles set out to make it possible for more runners to line up on 28 August . – BY SEAN FALCONER

When it comes to bucket list races , the Comrades Marathon is one of the most popular amongst South African runners . In fact , some people in this country believe you ’ re not a ‘ real runner ’ until you ’ ve run the Comrades . While that is a matter opinion , it doesn ’ t change the fact that each year , anything up to 25,000 runners will want to enter the world ’ s largest ultra-marathon . And in 2022 , after the Comrades was not run for two years due to the COVID pandemic shutting down all events , there is even more interest from the running community in lining up for the return of the Comrades . However , the price of a Comrades entry has proven a huge stumbling block for many runners .

As running events have returned to the calendar , many event organisers have faced several challenges : Increased costs due to extra safety measures ( Both COVID-related and general health and safety requirements ), smaller sponsorships from corporates
and businesses still recovering from the pandemic , and lower numbers of entries from a running community that is also still feeling the financial pinch of the pandemic . This has seen most races put their entry fees up in 2022 , including the Comrades Marathon Association ( CMA ), which announced an entry fee of R1200 for first-time Comrades entrants in 2022 , and a reduced fee of R1000 for those who entered in 2020 , but were then unable to run when the race was cancelled .
Barrier to Entry
This substantially increased entry fee immediately put the race out of reach of many aspirant Comrades runners , and the race faced a huge backlash in criticism , in spite of trying to explain to the running community the reasoning and justification for the fee . It also prompted some members of the running community , like Doctor Tom Boyles , a 50-year-old Johannesburg-based infectious diseases specialist and seven-time Comrades finisher , to step forward
and try to help those runners who found themselves unable to enter the race .
Shortly after the announcement of the higher race entry fee , Tom launched the Raising Comrades Spirit campaign , and he explains his thinking . “ I saw that Comrades had doubled its entry fee , which put the race out of reach for many runners , particularly when they already faced increased travel and accommodation costs . I therefore started a campaign that allows those of us lucky enough to have higher incomes to support runners who are less fortunate , by contributing to the cost of their entry fees and ensure that we continue to see all-comers on the road this year ,” says Tom .
“ One of the reasons I run Comrades rather than doing races like the Cape Epic * is because the race is so much more inclusive . The barrier to entry is so much lower that most South Africans can afford to race , so you see a broad spectrum of society on the
Images : Action Photo SA , Courtesy Comrades Marathon
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