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Centenary Comrades cancelled due to Covid-19

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CMA chairperson Cheryl Winn has urged runners to accept and respect the CMA’s decision which has been made in conjunction with KZNA, ASA and government restrictions

Picture: Leon Lestrade, African News Agency (ANA)

DURBAN – The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) Board has cancelled the Comrades Marathon, scheduled for June 13.

After having late last year undertaken to make announcements in mid-February regarding requirements for qualification and the staging of the 2021 Comrades Marathon, the decision to cancel will come as a disappointment to tens of thousands of runners; and has also been a tough call for CMA organisers to make, in what is the world-renowned Race’s Centenary year.

This decision comes in the wake of engagements with KwaZulu-Natal Athletics, Athletics South Africa, the National Coronavirus Command Council, members of the medical fraternity and governmental departments; and was a moral and practical imperative given the ongoing uncertainty and unprecedented circumstances of the Coronavirus pandemic, the onset of a second wave and a significantly more infectious variant of Covid-19, as well as the ongoing National State of Disaster and its associated restrictions.

The CMA Board is determined the health, safety and welfare of Comrades runners, officials, volunteers and the general public remains paramount even after having held out hope the road running event would be hosted in June.

The impending third wave of Covid-19, widely anticipated around April to June has ended any such hopes and makes the hosting of any mass event in the near future highly unlikely.

Bongumusa Mthembu won the Comrades Marathon for the first time in 2014 and again in 2017, becoming the second South African to win it twice, after ‘Comrades king’, Bruce Fordyce. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng, ANA

However, the good news is the Comrades Centenary Celebrations are imminent.

With the first Comrades Marathon having been held on May 24, 1921, the CMA will launch its Centenary Celebrations on May 24.

Other great news is that the CMA has confirmed its 2nd Comrades Marathon virtual event will take place on June 13, in which runners will be able to run in any location, outside in their garden, or neighbourhood, all at their own pace, in a similar fashion to last year’s successful inaugural Race the Comrades Legends which saw 43,788 participants from more than 100 nations uniting in a single virtual event.

Details of the virtual event, the Comrades Centenary Celebrations and other innovative festivities, which are in the pipeline, will be shared in due course.

Hundreds of would be 2020 Comrades Marathon runners took to the streets in Durban running what is called a virtual race on Sunday morning the 14 June 2020. More than 30,000 runners have entered Race The Comrades Legends virtual event, on the day the 2020 Comrades Marathon was scheduled. Picture: Bongani Mbatha, African News Agency (ANA)

CMA chairperson, Cheryl Winn urged runners to accept and respect the CMA’s decision which has been made in conjunction with KZNA, ASA and government restrictions, and most importantly, with the utmost regard for the health and welfare of our athletes, volunteers and all other stakeholders.

A secondary consideration was the risk of committing precious resources towards the staging of an event which might later be cancelled at short notice and the CMA Board’s obligation for the preservation of the 100-year-old event’s assets into the future.

“Amidst intense and ongoing uncertainty with the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on mass gatherings and events, our runners’ interests remain uppermost in our minds and endeavours.

Picture Leon Lestrade, African News Agency (ANA)

“We urge Comrades runners to take care and continue to maintain their fitness levels to enable a smooth transition once the normal staging of distance running resumes, while we at the CMA pledge to enable runners to stay connected, engaged, safe, informed and abreast of developments in this regard,” she said.

“What we can confirm is that the festivities of the Comrades Marathon Centenary Celebrations will commence on 24 May and we invite all South Africans and our global running community to join in the revelry and remembrance of South Africa’s and the world’s oldest and greatest ultra-road running event,” Winn said.