Mixed bag of changes for 2019 Comrades

Bongmusa Mthembu, 2018 Men's Winner during the 2019 Comrades Marathon media launch at Crowne Plaza on October 11, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Bongmusa Mthembu, 2018 Men's Winner during the 2019 Comrades Marathon media launch at Crowne Plaza on October 11, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

The elite competitors are in for a bonanza if they deliver the goods, but the news isn’t so rosy for the brave amateurs.

There was good news for some and disappointment for others on Thursday, as the Comrades Marathon Association announced a few changes ahead of next year’s popular ultra-marathon in KwaZulu-Natal.

There was a massive carrot placed on offer for elite participants, with the organisers announcing a record R4.3 million purse, including a R500 000 prize for the first man and woman.

An additional R500 000 was on offer for anyone breaking the men’s and women’s ‘up’ run records held by Russian athletes Leonid Shvetsov (5:24:49) and Elena Nurgalieva (6:09:24).

Amateur participants, however, were voicing their frustration shortly after the launch, with a few adjustments making it tougher for individuals to join the mass field at the 94th edition of the gruelling contest.

Participants would need to run 10 minutes quicker in a standard marathon to book their place on the start line, with the qualifying time set at four hours, 50 minutes (4:50:00), though the final cut-off of 12 hours on race day would be retained.

There was also an increase in the entry fee, with South African runners needing to fork out R600 to earn their spot.

“Comrades is where it is today because it evolves,” said race director Rowyn James.

“If you don’t adapt, you die, so it’s important that we keep up with the times.

“We engage with our stakeholders and participants, and we implement changes they suggest where and when we can.”

A few more changes were announced, including two new medal categories, with amateur athletes receiving the Robert Mtshali titanium medal for finishing between nine and 10 hours, and elite women receiving the Isavel Roche-Kelly (gold/silver) for finishing between 11th position and 7:30:00.

Entries would open on October 19 and close on December 10, with the substitution window period being held between March 1 and April 15 next year.

The entry limit was capped at 25 000 participants, with 7 000 spots reserved for novices.

While over 23 000 entries had been sold out last year in a record three weeks, James said there were safety concerns in opening the race to more participants.

“If we wanted to we could take 30 000 entries, but it’s not just about chasing entries,” he said.

“It’s about presenting a safe and enjoyable race for everybody, and we know that’s a capacity we can handle.”

The 2019 Comrades Marathon, an ‘up’ run between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, would be held on June 9 over a distance of 86.7km.

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