The 96th Comrades Marathon, the “down run” from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, was special for four Border athletes who all finished the race last Sunday.
All praised the magnificent organisation and despite the pain experienced, all four are already thinking of training and running 2024 up run from Durban next year.
For businessman Mark Crawford of Chintsa, it was his first Comrades, although he had run the Two Oceans successfully.
As a novice at the Comrades, he was proud to have completed the run in under seven-and-a-half hours, gaining a silver medal in the process.
“I arrived on Friday and got a few tips on the race from other runners,” Crawford said.
“Registration went well, I was in and out in a few minutes. On the morning of the race, there was a nice ‘gees’ (spirit) among the runners and it was very emotional at the start with the national anthem and Chariots of Fire playing, all in the dark, before we set off.
“At about the 40km mark, I started cramping and had to battle the elements. I was full of emotion throughout.”
Crawford said that on Monday, his hips were aching from the jarring experience on the long downhills he had run, but now his appetite for SA’s biggest and grandest road race had been whetted, and he will be back next year.
Top veteran female athlete, Old Selbornians’ Sharon Eldridge, ran her 30th Comrades on Sunday.
“The run becomes more difficult each time, not easier, because of age,” she said.
Eldridge was impressed by the spectators and supporters this year. In particular, the support of Border runners was most evident and 11 runners from her club were in action on Sunday.
“Training started at the end of last year,” she said.
“The atmosphere was lovely and you soon forget the pain and suffering. The going was good this year and I thought the race was not as tough as last year’s.”
Although she said: “Never again,” Eldridge hopes to be at the start in Durban next year for her 31st Comrades.
For Michael Francis of Oxford Striders, a novice to the Comrades, it was a real eye-opener. He finished at 11:38.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said enthusiastically.
“The start was amazing.
“Although it was a down run, in the first section there were plenty of hills to climb.
“The support from the crowds was great, I honestly didn’t expect it.
“I’ve done a few other races, but the Comrades was perfectly organized. The logistics were excellent, the water points were great, and there were so many volunteers helping out.”
The only dampener for Francis was that a fellow club member, Warwick, had suffered dehydration and needed to be hospitalised.
“Fortunately he recovered and was released from hospital at about midnight Sunday.”
Keen runner, adventurist and cyclist, Liam Victor, said he had run his fifth Comrades on Sunday.
“The race is unsurpassed by any other event I’ve done,” Victor said.
“The camaraderie is fantastic. Coming home by plane there were a lot runners doing the ‘Comrades Shuffle,’ as we walked.
“But to be honest, I ran Sunday’s race for fun, and I now realise I’ve got to put more training in and be more serious at next year’s run.”
Along the route Victor did 87 handstands — one for every kilometre he had run — and he had his moment of fame when he appeared briefly in the TV highlights package of the race doing handstands.