IT’S A CELEBRATION!

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May 17, 2021 by DAVE JACK

VIC CLAPHAM THE MAN WHO STARTED IT ALL

Major festivities are planned for Monday, 24 May 2021 when the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) marks 100 years since the first Comrades Marathon was hosted on 24 May 1921.

A gala event commemorating the Comrades Centenary which is limited to 250 guests, due to strict Covid-19 regulations, will be held at Comrades Marathon House in Pietermaritzburg. 

Among the guests will be former Comrades winners living in South Africa, male Comrades Quadruple Green Number holders who have completed 40 or more Comrades and female Triple Green Number runners who have completed more than 30 editions of The Ultimate Human Race, CMA Elders, former Chairpersons, current CMA Board and Staff members, members of the Race Organising Committee, current sponsors, representatives of the Official Comrades Charities, a number of very important dignitaries and select media.

CMA Chairperson, Cheryl Winn said, “We will remember Comrades’ origins, owed primarily to the inspiration and tireless efforts of a humble railroad engine driver and soldier, Vic Clapham, who returned from war with the vision of staging a living memorial to the suffering, loss of life, spirit, fortitude and camaraderie of the soldiers with whom he had shared the devastation of World War I.” 

Winn added, “A significant aspect of the day is recalling the brave early pioneers – some of whom completed the distance unofficially when the race was restricted exclusively to white males; our winners, heroes and record-breakers who have consistently inspired us with ever-improving competitive performances; and we will celebrate the so-called ‘ordinary runners’ for whom there is nothing at all that is ‘ordinary’ and who embody the spirit of grit, determination, camaraderie, hope and humanity upon with the Comrades Marathon was founded.”

“We will pay homage to the many dedicated volunteers through the ages who struggled to keep the dream alive as participation dwindled to as low as 9 finishers in 1946, and the many passionate and committed individuals whose initiative, influence and at times courageous leadership enabled the race to grow into its renown of today, as the oldest footrace in Africa, the oldest greatest, most famous, popular and competitive ultramarathon in the world, and the most inclusive sporting event in South Africa.”

The CMA Board will express gratitude to the generous sponsors, past and present, loyal fans, government stakeholders, the incredibly supportive communities along the route, as well as an entire nation that joins in celebrating man’s triumph over adversity, and the camaraderie and spirit of The Ultimate Human Race.

The day’s festivities will kick off with the 1921 Comrades Marathon Tribute Run, a symbolic 2.2km re-enactment of the 1921 Comrades Marathon which saw 34 starters take off from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall. Unlike the 90km footrace, this Tribute Run will finish at Comrades House where a host of other Comrades activities are in the line-up.

The arrival of the 34 runners will herald the start of the formal proceedings which will include the unveiling of a Centenary Memorial, entertainment, formal addresses from Dignitaries, less-formal speeches by special guests, more entertainment, and the cutting of a giant birthday cake.

The Comrades Centenary Celebration of 24 May promises to be a day to remember; an occasion which will be marked with jubilation, gratitude and nostalgia, as well as humility and a note of solemnity, owing to the impact of the current pandemic, as we reflect upon where we came from, where we are today, and the remarkable journey of the past 100 years.

The occasion’s activities will be live-streamed, and we invite Comrades runners and supporters in South Africa and around the world to follow the day’s proceedings from 09h00 – 15h00 on our website www.comrades.com, or on Facebook @ComradesMarathon.

17 MAY 2021

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