Big bucks up for grabs in the ‘Big One’

Cape Argus - - SPORT - MATSHELANE MAM­ABOLO @Tshili­boy

THERE ARE a half a mil­lion rea­sons why Bongu­musa Mthembu will be hit­ting the road start­ing on Mon­day to pre­pare for next year’s Com­rades Marathon.

That is the min­i­mum amount in rands the Arthur Ford superstar run­ner stands to bank should he win the 2019 edi­tion of the Ul­ti­mate Hu­man Race, a feat that will see him com­plete a rare hat­trick of ti­tles.

The Com­rades Marathon As­so­ci­a­tion (CMA) yes­ter­day launched the 84th edi­tion of the world fa­mous ul­tra marathon in Jo­han­nes­burg and among a num­ber of changes an­nounced was a 13 per­cent in­crease in over­all prize­money.

The win­ning man and woman will next year win a cool R500 000 and both de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, Mthembu and Anne Ash­worth, ex­pressed de­light at the in­crease.

“This is a good im­prove­ment and that is the kind of money that could change a lot for Bongu­musa,” Mthembu said yes­ter­day.

De­lighted at get­ting her win­ner’s jacket be­cause she will not be at tonight’s Com­rades gala din­ner in Dur­ban, Ash­worth said: “It’s amaz­ing that the prize money has gone up.”

There will be a purse of R4.3 mil­lion for the com­peti­tors with the run­ners-up tak­ing home R250 000 and third placed fin­ish­ers R180 000.

There’s also bonuses for the first KwaZulu Na­tal and South African fin­ish­ers as well as an in­cen­tive to break the Up Run (from Dur­ban to Mar­itzburg) course records.

“I’ve been rest­ing since Croa­tia (the re­cent world 100km cham­pi­onships where he fin­ished third) but train­ing starts Mon­day,” said Mthembu.

“It (Com­rades) is com­ing home to Mar­itzburg next year so I do not want to dis­ap­point my fam­ily and my fans.

“The in­crease of the bonus for first pro­vin­cial run­ner and first South African is also very good,” he said, adding that records are “made to be bro­ken”.

“I will be happy to break the record but to do that I need to start now; I can’t get to the race and de­cide I want the record. As soon as I start train­ing I need to de­cide I am go­ing for it.”

The mone­tary in­crease, though, was not the only change an­nounced for the 94th run­ning of the KZN clas­sic.

The CMA will also be in­tro­duc­ing two new medals to the cur­rent lot, with one par­tic­u­larly for the fe­male run­ners.

In­stead of the sil­ver medal they pre­vi­ously re­ceived, the women fin­ish­ing out­side the top 10 but un­der seven and a half hours will now be awarded the Isavel Roche-Kelly medal, so named af­ter the late run­ner who won the 1980 and 1981 edi­tions and was also the first woman to break the seven and a half-hour bar­rier for the epic 90km foot race.

The other new medal is to be named the Robert Mt­shali medal and it will be awarded to those fin­ish­ing be­tween nine and 10 hours. Mt­shali was the first un­of­fi­cial black run­ner in the 1935 edi­tion.

He fin­ished in 9hr 30min. En­tries for next year’s race open next Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 19 and the par­tic­i­pants will be capped at 25 000.

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