‘It can be done, we sim­ply need to want to do it’

Daily Dispatch - - Sport -

Much spec­u­la­tion as to what more the 2019 Com­rades might of­fer was an­swered at Thurs­day's of­fi­cial and si­mul­ta­ne­ous an­nounce­ments to the me­dia and the Com­rades Marathon fam­ily across the globe.

Many will have been sur­prised at the ex­tent of the changes.

Those who be­lieve Com­rades is far too dom­i­nant a fix­ture in SA road run­ning will have their be­lief strength­ened in the wake of the en­ter­pris­ing changes the Com­rades Marathon As­so­ci­a­tion (CMA) have in­tro­duced. I must ad­mit to strad­dling both camps of thought, want­ing to see SA again be­come an in­ter­na­tional force in road run­ning over stan­dard dis­tances, while also shar­ing the love af­fair so many of us en­joy with the KZN-based epic.

Com­rades sim­ply keeps re-in­vent­ing it­self. The 94th Com­rades – ac­tu­ally started in 1921 – has opened the road from Dur­ban to Pi­eter­mar­itzburg to 25,000 run­ners in 2019.

Two new medals have been in­tro­duced and few saw that one com­ing, though there has been pres­sure to name a medal af­ter a woman. The new Isavel Roche-Kelly medal is named af­ter the 1980/81 dou­ble win­ner who was the first women to break the sil­ver medal time of 7:18 and fol­lowed that up with 6:44 a year later.

A young, ex­cit­ing and tal­ented run­ner, she trag­i­cally died in a cy­cling ac­ci­dent three years later.

The half gold, half sil­ver medal will be awarded to women who fin­ish from 11th po­si­tion and to all who break the 7:30 bar­rier. That means no women will again win a sil­ver medal, though they are un­likely to be ag­grieved by that.

The sec­ond new medal is so very spe­cial given that for decades, nei­ther women in gen­eral nor any black folk were al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate in Com­rades.

Most white males have sadly shown them­selves down the years, as be­ing a pe­cu­liar lot and will for­ever be judged in his­tory for har­bour­ing prej­u­dice.

And yet road run­ning in SA has gen­er­ally been a ground breaker.

In 1935 Robert Mtshali was the first black man to un­of­fi­cially com­plete the Com­rades in a time of 9:30.

So it’s that the Com­rades now of­fers a medal, named af­ter his pi­o­neer­ing spirit, for all who com­plete the route in 9-10 hours. How spe­cial is that.

Other changes in­clude a faster qual­i­fy­ing time of 4:50, 10 min­utes quicker than in re­cent times. There has been some neg­a­tive re­ac­tion to this, but se­ri­ously any­body can do it if they sim­ply train ef­fec­tively.

An in­flated prize purse to R4.3m is what will se­ri­ously worry run­ning pu­ri­tans, while the win­ners cheques at R500,000 will lure marathon and even half marathon ex­po­nents. That, how­ever, can­not be laid at the door of the CMA who are do­ing what is best for their his­tor­i­cal race.

The con­trol­ling body of the sport in South Africa needs to en­sure that sim­i­lar re­wards are on of­fer for all in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised dis­tances, in par­tic­u­lar the 10, 21,1 and 42,2kms.

It can be done, we sim­ply need to want to do it.

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