Comrades Marathon

The race annually takes place in Kwa-Zulu Natal Province of South Africa between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The direction of the race alternates each year between the “Up” Run, starting from Durban and the “Down” Run starting from Pietermaritzburg. The Centenary Comrades Marathon, being celebrated in 2021, is a “Down” Run. The spirit of the Comrades Marathon is said to “Celebrate Mankind’s Spirit over adversity”. 


The race was the idea of World War I Veteran Vic Clapham, to commemorate the South African Soldiers killed during the War. Clapham, who had endured a 2,700km route march through sweltering German East Africa, wanted the Memorial to be a unique test of physical endurance of the runners. 


The course is marked by “The Big Five” set of hills. They are: Polly Shortts, Inchanga, Botha’s Hill, Fields Hill and Cowies Hill. The highest point of the race is 2,850ft (870m) above sea level. This set of hills together with other landmarks such as Lion Park, Umlaas Road, Camperdown, Cato Ridge, Harrison Flats, Drummond (halfway mark), Hillcrest, Kloof, Pinetown, Westville, 45th Cutting and Tollgate have become well-known landmarks over the 100 years History of the Comrades Marathon. The distances vary between 87km and 90km depending on the direction, and remarkable achievements have been set in the past. You can now earn one or all of these remarkable achievements by playing skillfully! GOOD LUCK



Many call it the world’s greatest ultra-marathon, and one of the reasons this fabled South African marathon has the title is because of the wealth of legends in its history. The South African soldiers who gave their lives in World War I gave veteran Vic Clapham the idea to stage a running race in their honour.

Fun Facts

  • The first Comrades Marathon was run on the 24th of May 1921 (Empire Day).
  • The constitution of the race states that one of its primary aims is to “celebrate mankind’s spirit over adversity”.
  • 34 people started the 1921 marathon. Only 16 finished it.
  • Bill Rowan was the first person to win the marathon in a time of 8 hours and 59 minutes.
  • The race was the idea of World War I veteran Vic Chapman (who had endured a gruelling march of 2700 km through German East Africa).
  • Frances Hayward was the first woman to run the Comrades (in 1923). She ran unofficially because her entry was refused. She finished in a time of 11 hours and 35 minutes and did not receive a medal.
    The winner of the 1930 race, Wally Hayward went on to win the race another four times in the 1950s and became the oldest man to complete the race in 1989.
  • The Comrades Marathon was not hosted between 1941 and 1945 (when the Union of South Africa was involved in World War 2).
  • In 1948 a race tradition was born when race official Max Trimborn gave a loud imitation of a cock’s crow (instead of firing a starting gun). The tradition still continues today. His recorded voice is played over loudspeakers at the starting line.
  • The race grew considerably in the sixties: From 104 starters in 1960 to 703 starters in 1969.
  • The Comrades Marathon attracted foreign entries for the first time in 1962. English Runner John Smith won the race in that year and missed the course record by 33 seconds.
  • Runners who have run 25 Comrades finishes to their name, run for free.
  • 43% of runners suffer from cramps.
  • More than 50% of runners finish the race in the last hour.
  • Bruce Fordyce won the Comrades Marathon a record nine times (1981 – 88 and 1990).
  • The first Comrades Marathon was run on Empire Day, May 24, 1921, with just 34 runners. 
  • The time limit for the Comrades Marathon is 12 hours. 
  • The first 10 men and women to cross the finish line get gold medals.


Lindsey Parry: Yes, it is possible. There are a few people who have done it. … It is a lot harder to do than running the Comrades Marathon. Just because walking by nature is slower than running, so therefore you have to walk quite fast.

Can I run a marathon without training?

“Prepare for a long and painful recovery if you didn’t train properly,” Fierras says. “Running a marathon without training can send you to the hospital and cause muscle strains, stress fractures, and long-term joint damage.”

Comrades Medals

Medals are awarded to all finishers of the Comrades Marathon in under 12 hours. There are also additional medals to be won for certain finishing times. The medal for Comrades 2020 is a special 95th edition medal, a nice one to add to your collection.

Course Records

Down: Men: David Gatebe: 5:18:19 (2016) Women: 5:54:43 (1989) Frith van der Merwe Up: Men: 5:24:49 (2008) Leonid Shvetsov Women: 5:58:53 (2019) Gerda Steyn

How old must you be to run the Comrades?

The minimum age requirement is that an athlete must be 20 years of age on the day of the race. The Comrades Marathon is run under the auspices of IAAF, ASA and KZNA.

Refreshments consumption in numbers during the Comrades Marathon.

Coke: 30,350 litres
Fanta/Crème Soda: 10,650 litres
Coke paper cups (175ml): 430,000
Water sachets: 2 million
Energy drink sachets: 480,000
Mageu Number 1: 32,640 sachets
Bananas: 9 tons
Oranges: 4.5 tons
Biscuits: 500 kg
Salticrax biscuits: 500 kg
Energy bars: 20,000
Cooked potatoes: 1.5 tons