The Comrades Marathon: world’s largest and oldest

When I was in my prime and might have raced it competitively, I didn’t make the time to run the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon, mainly because I was obsessed with pushing the envelope of endurance and at 56 miles, it wasn’t “enough” for me then. Chalk that up to being young and foolish.


Here’s a look at the Comrades Marathon:
“This is 14,000 champions, 14,000 winners, 14,000 heroes.”

Finally, this June I’ll make my debut at the Comrades Marathon, running from Pietermaritzburg to Durban in the Kwazulu-Natal Province of South Africa.

The race, begun in 1921 by a former infantryman, memorializes World War I soldiers who died in battle. It has continued every year since then, except for four years during WWII. Everyone who’s anyone in long distance running has finished the Comrades Marathon, and I regret not having done it before now. But before, I would have been out there busting my ass to earn a bronze or silver medal, and now I’ll savor the experience and simply work toward finishing before the cut-off of 12 hours. One of the perks of being 60.

Another perk: Go Trail has asked me to give a presentation on desert racing while I’m there. (Comrades won’t be anything like the desert, though, unless you want to compare it to the Gobi, and that’s a bit of a stretch.) We’ll be covering everything from the Badwater Ultramarathon to the incomparable 4 Deserts series, probably with a few tales of Mt. Everest thrown in just to confuse them.

Then my number-one comrade, Heather, and I will vacation in South Africa for a while, reminiscent of our honeymoon trip back in 2003. So, sure, regrets? I’ve had a few. But plenty of second chances, too.

How about you? Are there any “great races” you’re putting off? Why?

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5 Responses to The Comrades Marathon: world’s largest and oldest

  1. Todd J says:

    It’s good to know that if you let something pass you by that there may very well be a second chance. I’m glad you have a chance to run Comrades, Marshall. Savor every step, and don’t let the door hit you in the you-know-where as you enter the stadium. 😉
    Todd J´s last blog post ..A Day of No Wine And No Roses (but it was a sweet run!)

  2. congrats. I’ve been following your success on endurance running. I’m a first time runner, ran a total of 8 marathons, 50k’s, and one 50 mile ultra. Lately I’ve been having stomach cramps; at mid point. Bad enough where I can’t finish. Awesome job on everything, and thanks for being such an inspiration. Best Always, Jake.

  3. Grady Harrison says:

    Looking forward to this year’s race as well; I hope Comrades will bring you as much joy as I experienced. Shosholoza!

  4. Daniel Murphy says:

    Great news! Glad to hear that you are finally going to get to experience one of the best races there is. It also looks like America will be well represented this year with quite a few “big names” such as yourself. I am definitely looking forward to it. Hopefully we will run into you over there. Shosholoza!

  5. Gavin says:

    As your host for the first week, you will be welcomed into the Comrades spirit very rapidly. What with driving the route early in the week, discussing the little intricacies and tradition attached to the day, and seeing some of the less popular areas of the run, there will be some serious banter to deal with. Comrades is in our blood in Durban! We look forward to exchanging war stories after the event over what will probably be a warm cuppa tea and a hot soup. It is going to be an absolute pleasure, (God willing) to be completing my 10th run for my green number, which becomes mine for eternity, and trying for a sub 9 hour Bill Rowan medal. In the company of a legend, even more exciting, so none of this sub 12 hour stuff. The real Comrades is run in a sub 11 hour time. It will be interesting to hear comparisons between events after the race, and chat about the impact it has on your life on the road.
    We look forward very much to the time ahead.

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