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The Comrades Marathon is an ultramarathon of approximately 89 km (approx. 55 miles)[1] which is run annually in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It is the world's largest and oldest ultramarathon race.[2] The direction of the race alternates each year between the "up" run (87 km) starting from Durban and the "down" run (now 90.184 km) starting from Pietermaritzburg.

Comrades Marathon
Comrades Marathon logo.JPG
The Comrades Marathon logo
Date May/June
Location Durban/Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Event type Road
Distance Ultramarathon (90 km)
Established 1921
Course records
  • Down:
  • Up:
    •  Men: 5:24:49 (2008)
        Leonid Shvetsov
    •  Women: 6:09:23 (2006)
        Elena Nurgalieva
Official site The Comrades Marathon

The field is capped at 20,000 runners, and entrants hail from more than 60 countries.[3] In all but three runnings since 1988, over 10,000 runners have reached the finish within the allowed 11 or 12 hours.[4] With increased participation since the 1980s, the average finish times for both sexes, and the average age of finishers have increased substantially.[5]

Runners over the age of 20 qualify when they are able to complete an officially recognised marathon (42.2 km) in under five hours.[6] During the event an athlete must also reach five cut-off points in specified times to complete the race.[1] The spirit of the Comrades Marathon is said to be embodied by attributes of camaraderie, selflessness, dedication, perseverance, and ubuntu.[7]



The race is run on the roads of KwaZulu-Natal Province, marked by "The Big Five" set of hills. On the up run they appear in the following order: Cowies Hill, Field's Hill, Botha's Hill, Inchanga, and Polly Shortts.


Athletes currently have 12 hours to complete the course, extended from 11 hours in 2003. There are a number of cut-off points along the routes which runners must reach by a prescribed time or be forced to retire from the race. A runner who has successfully completed nine marathons wears a yellow number, while those who have completed ten races wear a green number, permanently allocated to the runner for all future races.

Medals are awarded to all runners completing the course in under 12 hours. Medals are currently awarded as follows:

  • Gold medals: The first 10 men and women.
  • Wally Hayward medals (silver-centred circled by gold ring): 11th position to sub 6hrs 00min
  • Silver medals: 6hrs 00min to sub 7hrs 30min.
  • Bill Rowan medals (bronze-centred circled by silver ring): 7hrs 30min to sub 9hrs 00min.
  • Bronze medals: 9hrs 00min to sub 11hrs 00min.
  • Vic Clapham medals (copper): 11hrs 00min to sub 12hrs 00min.

- Prior to 2000, only gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded.

- The Bill Rowan medal was introduced in 2000 and named after the winner of the first Comrades Marathon in 1921. The time limit for this medal was inspired by Rowan's winning time in 1921 of 8hrs 59min.

- A new copper medal, the Vic Clapham medal (named after the race founder), was added in 2003. This medal coincided with the increase in the time allocation for completing the event from sub 11hrs to sub 12hrs.

- The Wally Hayward medal, named after five-time winner Wally Hayward, was added in 2007 for runners finishing in under 6hrs.

- In 2005 the back-to-back medal was created and henceforth was awarded to novice runners who complete an 'up or down run' in succession. In terms of the implementation thereof, Back-to-Back medals were automatically awarded to 2005 Comrades Marathon finishers who had completed their first Comrades Marathon in 2004. As with any new innovation, the award was never intended to be retrospective, owing to administrative restrictions. However, in response to popular demand, the Back-to-Back medal is available for purchase to runners who have previously fulfilled the criteria of completing both an 'up' and a 'down' Comrades Marathon.


Bust of Vic Clapham, founder of the Comrades

The Comrades was run for the first time on 24 May 1921 (Empire Day), and with the exception of a break during World War II, has been run every year since. The 2010 event was the 85th race. To date, over 300,000 runners have completed the race.[4]

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 2,700-kilometre route march through sweltering German East Africa, wanted the memorial to be a unique test of the physical endurance of the entrants. The constitution of the race states that one of its primary aims is to "celebrate mankind's spirit over adversity".

From 1962 to 1994 the race was run on Republic Day, 31 May. After this public holiday was scrapped in 1995 by the post-apartheid South African government, the race date was changed to Youth Day on 16 June. In 2007, the race organisers (controversially) bowed to political pressure from the ANC Youth League, who felt that the race diverted attention from the significance of Youth Day, and changed the race date to Sunday 17 June for 2007 and 15 June for 2008. In 2009 and 2010 the date was changed (to 24 May and 30 May respectively) to accommodate football's Confederations Cup (2009) and World Cup (2010) in South Africa.


Forty-eight runners entered the first race in 1921, but only thirty-four elected to start. The course at the time was tarred only for the final few kilometres into Durban. A time limit of 12 hours was set and Bill Rowan became the inaugural winner, clocking 08:59 to win by 41 minutes ahead of Harry Phillips. Of the 34 starters, only 16 completed the race.

Arthur Newton entered and won the race for the first time in 1922. He went on to win the race five times and emerge as the dominant Comrades runner of the 1920s. When he completed the down run in 06:56 in 1923, there were only a handful of spectators on hand to witness the finish because so few thought it possible that the race could be run so quickly. The first woman to run the race was Frances Hayward in 1923,[8] but her entry was refused, so she was an unofficial entrant.[4] She completed the event in 11:35[4] and although she was not awarded a Comrades medal, the other runners and spectators presented her with a silver tea service and a rose bowl. In 1924 the Comrades had its fewest starters ever, just 24. Four years later, in 1928, the time limit for the race was reduced by an hour to 11 hours.


In the 1930s, Hardy Ballington emerged as the dominant runner, recording four victories in 1933, 1934, 1936 and 1938. The winner of the 1930 race, Wally Hayward, became one of the greatest legends of the Comrades Marathon, winning a further four times in the fifties, and becoming the oldest man to complete the race in 1989. In 1932 Geraldine Watson, an unofficial entrant, became the first woman to complete both the up run and the down run.


After Ballington's domination of the 1930s, Comrades was stopped during the war years from 1941 to 1945. In 1948 a Comrades tradition was born when race official Max Trimborn, instead of firing the customary starter's gun, gave a loud imitation of a cock's crow. That tradition continues to the present day with Trimborn's recorded voice played over loudspeakers at the starting line.


In the 1950s, a full twenty years after he won the race for the first time, Wally Hayward recorded his second victory and followed that up with wins in 1951, 1953 and 1954. He represented South Africa at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, where he finished tenth in the marathon. Hayward retired from the Comrades after establishing new records for both the up and down runs and equaling the five wins of Newton and Ballington. In 1958, the race was won for the first time by Jackie Mekler, who went on to win the race five times, finishing second twice and third twice.


In the 1960s, Comrades grew considerably, from 104 starters in 1960 to 703 starters in 1969. Due to the bigger fields, cut-off points were introduced at Drummond and Cato Ridge. Mekler became the first man to break the six-hour barrier in 1960, finishing in 5:56:32. The 1961 winner was George Claassen, a school principal and father of well-known Wynand Claassen, Springbok rugby captain during 1981-83. Claassen junior also finished the Comrades ten times in later years.

In 1962, the race attracted foreign entries for the first time as the Road Runners Club of England sent over four of the best long-distance runners in Britain. English runner John Smith won the race, an up run, in under six hours, missing out on the course record by 33 seconds. Watching the stragglers come in hours later, Smith commented to former winner Bill Cochrane that the other people completing the race were getting as much applause as he had received. "You are now witnessing the spirit of the Comrades," replied Cochrane.

In 1965, English runner Bernard Gomersall broke Mekler's down run record with a time of 5:51:09.

In 1967, Manie Kuhn and Tommy Malone were involved in the closest finish in the history of the race. Malone appeared to be on his way to a comfortable win and was handed the traditional message from the Mayor of Pietermaritzburg to the Mayor of Durban at Tollgate with a lead of two minutes over Kuhn. He entered the stadium in the lead with only 80 metres left to go. Suddenly Kuhn appeared only 15 metres behind and closed in quickly. Malone put in a burst for the line, but with only 15 metres left he fell to the ground with cramps. He attempted to get up again, but with the line within reach Kuhn flew past to grab victory. The mayoral message was forgotten as both runners embraced.[9]


The Comrades had over 1,000 starters for the first time in 1971, with over 3,000 in 1979. The race was widely broadcast on both radio and television. The race was opened to all athletes for the first time in 1975, allowing blacks and women to take part officially. In 1975, the Golden Jubilee of the Comrades, Vincent Rakabele finished 20th to become the first black runner to officially win a medal. Elizabeth Cavanaugh became the first women's winner in a shade over 10 hours.

1976 saw the emergence of Alan Robb, who won the first of his four Comrades titles. Robb repeated his win in 1977, 1978 and 1980, including breaking the tape in Durban in 1978 in a record 5:29:14, almost 20 minutes and four kilometres ahead of runner-up Dave Wright.


During the 1980s the Comrades began with a field of 4,207 in 1980 and topped 5,000 for the first time in 1983.

In 1981, University of the Witwatersrand student Bruce Fordyce won the first of his eventual nine Comrades titles. An outspoken critic of apartheid, Fordyce and a number of other athletes initially decided to boycott the 1981 event when organisers announced that they would associate it with the 20th anniversary of the Republic of South Africa. Fordyce ultimately competed wearing a black armband to signal his protest. He repeated his victories in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 (a record 5:24:07 down run), 1987, 1988 (a record 5:27:42 for the up run), and 1990.

In 1989, Sam Tshabalala became the first black winner of the Comrades.

Schoolteacher Frith van der Merwe won the woman's race in 1988 in a time of 6:32:56. In 1989, Van der Merwe ran 5:54:43, obliterating the women's record and finishing fifteenth overall.[10]

In the same year Wally Hayward entered the race at the age of 79 and finished in 9:44:15. He repeated the feat in the 1989 Comrades, where he completed the race with only two minutes to spare and at the age of 80 became the oldest man to complete the Comrades.


Comrades Marathon House, the CMA's headquarters in Pietermaritzburg where race statistics and memorabilia are kept[11]

During the 1990s the size of the starting fields was in the region of 12,000 to 14,000 runners. In 1995 prize money was introduced, attracting more foreign competitors. The traditional race day of May 31, formerly Republic Day, was changed to June 16, the anniversary of the Soweto uprising.

In 1992 Charl Mattheus, crossed the finish line first, but was later disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance. He claimed it was contained in medicine he had taken for a sore throat, but Jetman Msutu was elevated to the winner, thus becoming the second black winner of the Comrades. In a sad twist for Mattheus, the substance for which he was banned was later removed from the IAAF's banned substance list since all evidence pointed to it having no performance enhancing properties. Mattheus also suffered much negativity in the public eye but later managed to redeem his clean image with an emphatic faultless win in the 1997 down run beating a strong local and international field.


The 75th anniversary of the Comrades Marathon in 2000 was the largest ever staged, with a massive field of 23,961. An extra hour was allowed to allow runners dome recovery time for bronze medal finishers to celebrate the milestone. In 2010, on its 85th anniversary, the race gained a place in the Guinness World Records as the ultramarathon with most runners. 14,343 athletes, the largest field since the turn of the millennium, finished in the allowed 12 hours.[12][13]

Russian identical twin sisters Olesya and Elena Nurgalieva won a combined ten Comrades titles from 2003–2013, while three-time champion Stephen Muzhingi became the first non-South African winner from Africa in 2009. Stephen Muzhingi also became the first athlete to win three races in a row (2009, 2010 and 2011) since Bruce Fordyce won three in a row in the eighties (1981, 1982 and 1983).[14] Russian runner Leonid Shvetsov set both down and up course records in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

South African supremacy over the men´s race was restored when Ludwick Mamabolo won the down run in 2012. His win was followed up by three successive South African triumphs in the following years. Among the women, the Nurgalieva twins hold on the race was finally broken in 2014 when Ellie Greenwood, GBR, won the downrun after a spectacular finish, taking the lead just 2 km before the end. In 2015 Caroline Wostmann became the first South African woman to win Comrades in 17 years. In 2017, American Camille Herron, led from start-to-finish to become only the 3rd American and first in 20 years to win Comrades.[15]

Health issuesEdit

As with every ultramarathon, there are potentially lethal health risks involved in extreme physical events. In the history of the Comrades, there have been 7 deaths up to the 2007 event.[16] In a survey among a sample of 2005 participants, 25% reported cramps, 18% nausea, 8% vomiting, 13% dizziness, 3% diarrhoea, 23% pain, excluding the expected sore legs, and 14% reported fatigue of such a nature that they believed themselves to be incapable of continuing the race.[5] Among silver medalists there was a higher incidence of cramps (42.9%), nausea (21.4%) and diarrhoea (7.1%), though a lower incidence of pain and fatigue than the average runner.

Cheating in the raceEdit

In 1993, Herman Matthee, a runner from Bellville athletics club, finished in 7th place and was one of the top ten gold medal winners, but he was later stripped of his gold medal and disqualified when video evidence and eye witness testimony indicated that he entered the race at Kloof and completed less than 30 km of the 89 km down run.[17][18] As his surname resembled that of top runner Charl Mattheus, he was often mistaken by the public as being the same person. Consequently, in a Comrades first, 11th-place finisher Simon Williamson was months later promoted to tenth place and awarded the last gold medal by the then South African president FW de Klerk. Williamson had passed another runner, Ephraim Sekothlong, in the last 100 metres to claim 11th spot and, unknowingly, a gold medal.

In 1999, the Motsoeneng brothers from Bethlehem, Free State, who strongly resembled one another, performed an act of cheating during another down run.[19][20] By exchanging places with his brother at toilet stops and aided by car lifts at various stages, Sergio Motsoeneng finished ninth, which came as a surprise to Nick Bester and other athletes behind him, who could not recall being overtaken. They were exposed when television footage revealed them to be wearing watches on different arms,[21] and a time pad reading that confirmed that one of the brothers was still trailing Bester at Botha's Hill. The brothers performed well in later years,[22] though Sergio tested positive for a banned substance after finishing third in 2010.[23]

Use of banned substances is claimed to be endemic among top Comrades athletes,[24] but only a small number have been disqualified. Runners who have tested positive include Sergio Motsoeneng, Rasta Mohloli, Viktor Zhdanov,[25] Lephetesang Adoro and Ludwick Mamabolo.[26] Mamabolo was found not guilty due to “technical irregularities”.[27] Erythropoietin (EPO), norandrosterone (a metabolite or precursor of nandrolone), methylhexaneamine and testosterone have been mentioned in connection with Comrades athletes.

In 2014, an analysis of negative splits by runner and statistician Mark Dowdeswell, suggested that a number of runners in the middle to back half of the field may be taking shortcuts.[28][29][30][31][32]


Elena Nurgalieva leading at the 65 kilometres (40 mi) mark in the 2012 Comrades

10 Fastest times (up & down runs)Edit

Year: Athlete: Time: Nation: Position that year

Up - Men

Up - Women

Down - Men

Down - Women

Multiple winnersEdit

'+' denotes winner of both an up and a down run

Men's Champion Wins Country Women's Champion Wins Country
Bruce Fordyce + 9   South Africa Elena Nurgalieva + 8   Russia
Arthur Newton + 5   South Africa/  United Kingdom Maureen Holland + 4   South Africa
Hardy Ballington + 5   South Africa Lettie van Zyl + 3   South Africa
Wally Hayward + 5   South Africa Helen Lucre + 3   South Africa
Jackie Mekler + 5   South Africa Frith van der Merwe + 3   South Africa
Alan Robb + 4   South Africa Maria Bak + 3   Germany
Dave Bagshaw + 3   South Africa Lindsay Weight + 2   South Africa
Stephen Muzhingi + 3   Zimbabwe Isavel Roche-Kelly + 2   South Africa
Vladimir Kotov 3   Belarus Elizabeth Cavanagh 2   South Africa
Bongmusa Mthembu + 3   South Africa Olesya Nurgalieva 2   Russia
Johnny Coleman 2   South Africa Ann Trason + 2   United States
Bill Cochrane + 2   South Africa
Gerald Walsh + 2   South Africa
Trevor Allen + 2   South Africa
Derek Preiss 2   South Africa
Dmitri Grishine 2   Russia
Leonid Shvetsov + 2   Russia

Most gold medalsEdit

Gold medals were first awarded in 1931, and to the first 6 male finishers. In 1972, this was extended to the first 10 male finishers, as it is today. In 1983 a gold medal was awarded to the female winner for the first time. In 1988, this was extended to the first 3 female finishers, then to the first 5 female finishers from 1995, and from 1998 onward to the first 10 female finishers, on par with the male race.

The following runners won 7 or more gold medals, gold medal span in brackets:



  • 13
    • Elena Nurgalieva (2003-2015)   Russia
  • 12
    • Marina Zhalybina (1999-2013)   Russia
  • 11
  • 9
    • Valentina Shatyayeva (1994-2002)   Russia

Most top 10 finishes by womenEdit

The following women have finished in the top 10 of the womens race on 7 or more occasions in the race history. Given the top 10 women only received gold medals from 1998, the gold medals list doesn't fully reflect the history of the womens race as female contenders in the 1980s and early 90s were competing for fewer gold medals.

Oldest finisherEdit

  • Wally Hayward - 1989, 80 years. In 1954, winning Comrades for the fifth time, Hayward also was the oldest runner on the day, at the age of 45. [35]

Permanent Green NumbersEdit

When a runner completes their 10th Comrades (or achieves either 5 gold medals or 3 wins) they achieve their green number and keep their race number for life, the race number effectively being 'retired' only for use by that athlete. The race number may subsequently only be inherited by family members.

The following are holders (either earned or inherited) of race numbers 1 to 10:

  • 1. Clive Crawley - 42 medals (1957 - 2000) (1 gold, 22 silver, 19 bronze)
  • 2. Wally Hayward - 7 medals (1930 - 1989) (4 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze) / Steven Bure - 3 medals (2015 - 2017) (2 Bill Rowan, 1 Bronze)
  • 3. Allen Bodill - 10 medals (1947 - 1968) (10 silver) / Myles Bodill - 2 medals (1989 - 1994) (2 bronze)
  • 4. Nick Raubenheimber - 22 medals (1953 - 1975) (6 golds, 13 silver, 3 bronze) / Graham Raubenheimer - 11 medals (1980 - 1995) (4 silver, 6 bronze) / Blake Raubenheimer - 10 medals (2005 - 2017) (1 Bill Rowan, 9 bronze)
  • 5. Allan Ferguson - 36 medals (1948 - 1995) (3 gold, 12 silver, 21 bronze)
  • 6. John Woods - 11 medals (1952 - 1979) (1 gold, 8 silver, 2 bronze)
  • 7. Malcolm Hean - 14 medals (1962 - 1976) (9 silver, 5 bronze)
  • 8. unknown/not allocated
  • 9. Jackie Mekler - 12 medals (1952 - 1985) (10 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)
  • 10. Fred Morrison - 11 medals (1938 - 1966) (2 gold, 9 silver)

Most medalsEdit

Medal holder Medals
Barry Holland 46
Louis Massyn 46
Dave Rogers 45[36]
Clive Crawley 42[37]
Dave Lowe 42
Alan Robb 42
Vic Boston 42
David Williams 41[38]
Tommy Neitski 41
Zwelitsha Gono 41[39]
Wietsche van der Westhuizen 41
Mike Cowling 41[40]

Whilst no woman has yet achieved a quadruple green number, the most number of finishes by a women runner is 30 (i.e. a triple green number) by Tilda Tearle from 1984 to 2017. She won the race in 1993.

Most consecutive medalsEdit

Medal holder Medals Achieved in
Barry Holland 46 2018[41]
Louis Massyn 46 2018[42]
Dave Lowe 42 2015[43]
Alan Robb 42 2015[44]
Vic Boston 42 2018[45]
Tommy Neitski 41 2017[46]
Wietsche van der Westhuizen 41 2018[47]
Kenny Craig 40 1998[48]
Riel Hugo 40 2008[49]
Shaun Wood 40 2017[50]

Winners and waypointsEdit

Past Comrades winners
Year u/d Time (Men) Men's Champion Country Time (Women) Women's Champion Country
2018 d 5:26:34 Bongmusa Mthembu3   South Africa 6:10:03 Ann Ashworth   South Africa
2017 u 5:35:34 Bongmusa Mthembu2   South Africa 6:27:35 Camille Herron   United States
2016 d 5:18:19 David Gatebe   South Africa 6:25:55 Charne Bosman   South Africa
2015 u 5:38:36 Gift Kelehe   South Africa 6:12:22 Caroline Wöstmann   South Africa
2014 d 5:28:29 Bongmusa Mthembu   South Africa 6:18:12 Eleanor Greenwood   United Kingdom
2013 u 5:32:09 Claude Moshiywa   South Africa 6:27:09 Elena Nurgalieva8   Russia
2012 d 5:31:03 Ludwick Mamabolo   South Africa 6:07:12 Elena Nurgalieva7   Russia
2011 u 5:32:45 Stephen Muzhingi3   Zimbabwe 6:24:11 Elena Nurgalieva6   Russia
2010 d 5:29:01 Stephen Muzhingi2   Zimbabwe 6:13:03 Elena Nurgalieva5   Russia
2009 d 5:23:27 Stephen Muzhingi   Zimbabwe 6:12:08 Olesya Nurgalieva2   Russia
2008 u 5:24:49 Leonid Shvetsov2   Russia 6:14:38 Elena Nurgalieva4   Russia
2007 d 5:20:49 Leonid Shvetsov   Russia 6:10:11 Olesya Nurgalieva   Russia
2006 u 5:35:19 Oleg Kharitonov   Russia 6:09:24 Elena Nurgalieva3   Russia
2005 d 5:27:10 Sipho Ngomane   South Africa 5:58:50 Tatyana Zhirkova   Russia
2004 u 5:31:22 Vladimir Kotov3   Belarus 6:11:15 Elena Nurgalieva2   Russia
2003 d 5:28:52 Fusi Nhlapo   South Africa 6:07:46 Elena Nurgalieva   Russia
2002 u 5:30:59 Vladimir Kotov2   Belarus 6:14:21 Maria Bak3   Germany
2001 d 5:25:51 Andrew Kelehe   South Africa 6:13:53 Elvira Kolpakova   Russia
2000 u 5:25:33 Vladimir Kotov   Belarus 6:15:35 Maria Bak2   Germany
1999 d 5:30:10 Jaroslaw Janicki   Poland 6:31:03 Birgit Lennartz   Germany
1998 u 5:26:25 Dmitri Grishine2   Russia 6:38:57 Rae Bisschoff   South Africa
1997 d 5:28:37 Charl Mattheus   South Africa 5:58:24 Ann Trason2   United States
1996 u 5:29:33 Dmitri Grishine   Russia 6:13:23 Ann Trason   United States
1995 d 5:34:02 Shaun Meiklejohn   South Africa 6:22:57 Maria Bak   Germany
1994 u 5:38:39 Alberto Salazar   United States 6:41:23 Valentina Lyakhova   Russia
1993 d 5:39:41 Charly Doll   Germany 6:55:07 Tilda Tearle   South Africa
1992 u 5:46:11 Jetman Msutu[note 1]   South Africa 6:51:05 Frances van Blerk   South Africa
1991 d 5:40:53 Nick Bester   South Africa 6:08:19 Frith van der Merwe3   South Africa
1990 u 5:40:25 Bruce Fordyce9   South Africa 7:02:00 Naidene Harrison   South Africa
1989 d 5:35:51 Samuel Tshabalala   South Africa 5:54:43 Frith van der Merwe2   South Africa
1988 u 5:27:42 Bruce Fordyce8   South Africa 6:32:56 Frith van der Merwe   South Africa
1987 u 5:37:01 Bruce Fordyce7   South Africa 6:48:42 Helen Lucre3   South Africa
1986 d 5:24:07 Bruce Fordyce6   South Africa 6:55:01 Helen Lucre2   South Africa
1985 u 5:37:01 Bruce Fordyce5   South Africa 6:53:24 Helen Lucre   South Africa
1984 d 5:27:18 Bruce Fordyce4   South Africa 6:46:35 Lindsay Weight2   South Africa
1983 u 5:30:12 Bruce Fordyce3   South Africa 7:12:56 Lindsay Weight   South Africa
1982 d 5:34:22 Bruce Fordyce2   South Africa 7:04:59 Cheryl Winn   South Africa
1981 u 5:37:28 Bruce Fordyce   South Africa 6:44:35 Isavel Roche-Kelly2   South Africa
1980 d 5:38:25 Alan Robb4   South Africa 7:18: Isavel Roche-Kelly   South Africa
1979 u 5:45:02 Piet Vorster   South Africa 8:22:41 Jan Mallen   South Africa
1978 d 5:29:14 Alan Robb3   South Africa 8:25: Lettie van Zyl3   South Africa
1977 u 5:47:00 Alan Robb2   South Africa 8:58: Lettie van Zyl2   South Africa
1976 d 5:40:53 Alan Robb   South Africa 9:05: Lettie van Zyl   South Africa
1975 u 5:53:00 Derek Preiss2   South Africa 10:08: Elizabeth Cavanagh2   South Africa
1974 u 6:02:49 Derek Preiss   South Africa 10:40: Alet Kleynhans   South Africa
1973 d 5:39:09 Dave Levick   South Africa 8:40: Maureen Holland4   South Africa
1972 u 5:48:57 Mick Orton   United Kingdom 9:26: Maureen Holland3   South Africa
1971 d 5:47:06 Dave Bagshaw3   South Africa 8:37: Maureen Holland2   South Africa
1970 u 5:51:27 Dave Bagshaw2   South Africa 10:50: Elizabeth Cavanagh   South Africa
1969 d 5:45:35 Dave Bagshaw   South Africa
1968 u 6:01:11 Jack Mekler5   South Africa
1967 d 5:54:10 Manie Kuhn   South Africa
1966 u 6:14:07 Tommy Malone   South Africa 9:30:00 Maureen Holland   South Africa
1965 d 5:51:09 Bernard Gomersall   United Kingdom 10:07: Mavis Hutchinson   South Africa
1964 u 6:09:54 Jack Mekler4   South Africa
1963 d 5:51:20 Jack Mekler3   South Africa
1962 u 5:57:05 John Smith   United Kingdom
1961 d 6:07:07 George Claassen   South Africa
1960 u 5:56:32 Jack Mekler2   South Africa
1959 d 6:28:11 Trevor Allen2   South Africa
1958 u 6:26:26 Jack Mekler   South Africa
1957 d 6:13:55 Mercer Davies   South Africa
1956 u 6:33:35 Gerald Walsh2   South Africa
1955 d 6:06:32 Gerald Walsh   South Africa
1954 u 6:12:55 Wally Hayward5   South Africa
1953 d 5:52:30 Wally Hayward4   South Africa
1952 u 7:00:02 Trevor Allen   South Africa
1951 d 6:14:08 Wally Hayward3   South Africa
1950 u 6:46:25 Wally Hayward2   South Africa
1949 d 6:23:21 Reg Allison   South Africa
1948 u 7:13:52 William Savage2   South Africa
1947 d 6:41:05 Hardy Ballington5   South Africa
1946 u 7:02:40 Bill Cochrane2   South Africa
1941-45 Race not held due to World War II
1940 u 6:39:23 Allen Boyce   South Africa
1939 d 6:22:05 Johnny Coleman2   South Africa
1938 u 6:32:26 Hardy Ballington4   South Africa
1937 d 6:23:11 Johnny Coleman   South Africa
1936 u 6:46:14 Hardy Ballington3   South Africa
1935 d 6:30:05 Bill Cochrane   South Africa
1934 u 7:09:03 Hardy Ballington2   South Africa
1933 d 6:50:37 Hardy Ballington   South Africa 9:31:25 Geraldine Watson3   South Africa
1932 u 7:41:58 William Savage   South Africa 11:56:00 Geraldine Watson2   South Africa
1931 d 7:16:30 Phil Masterton-Smith   South Africa 11 hrs + Geraldine Watson   South Africa
1930 u 7:27:26 Wally Hayward   South Africa
1929 d 7:52:00 Darrell Dale   South Africa
1928 u 7:49:07 Frank Sutton   South Africa
1927 d 6:40:56 Arthur Newton5   South Africa
1926 u 6:57:46 Harry Phillips   South Africa
1925 d 6:24:45 Arthur Newton4   South Africa
1924 u 6:58:22 Arthur Newton3   South Africa
1923 d 6:56:00 Arthur Newton2   South Africa 11:35:00 Frances Hayward   South Africa
1922 u 8:40:00 Arthur Newton   South Africa
1921 d 8:59:00 Bill Rowan   South Africa
Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap · Google Maps
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Comrades waypoints
Landmark Location
Pietermaritzburg City Hall (d) 29°36′07″S 30°22′46″E / 29.60194°S 30.37944°E / -29.60194; 30.37944 (Pietermaritzburg City Hall)
Harry Gwala Stadium (u) 29°37′03″S 30°23′08″E / 29.61750°S 30.38556°E / -29.61750; 30.38556 (Harry Gwala stadium)
Polly Shortts 29°39′34″S 30°26′11″E / 29.65944°S 30.43639°E / -29.65944; 30.43639 (Polly Shortts)
Highest point (2,850 ft or 870 m.a.s.l.) 29°42′50″S 30°29′43″E / 29.71389°S 30.49528°E / -29.71389; 30.49528 (Highest point)
Inchanga 29°44′38″S 30°40′40″E / 29.74389°S 30.67778°E / -29.74389; 30.67778 (Inchanga)
Halfway mark, Drummond 29°44′58″S 30°42′08″E / 29.74944°S 30.70222°E / -29.74944; 30.70222 (Halfway mark, Drummond)
Botha's Hill 29°45′05″S 30°44′23″E / 29.75139°S 30.73972°E / -29.75139; 30.73972 (Botha's Hill)
Field's Hill 29°47′38″S 30°50′57″E / 29.79389°S 30.84917°E / -29.79389; 30.84917 (Field's Hill)
Cowies Hill 29°49′40″S 30°53′33″E / 29.82778°S 30.89250°E / -29.82778; 30.89250 (Cowies Hill)
Kingsmead Cricket Ground (d) 29°51′00″S 31°01′40″E / 29.85000°S 31.02778°E / -29.85000; 31.02778 (Kingsmead Cricket Ground)
Durban City Hall (u) 29°51′29″S 31°01′32″E / 29.85806°S 31.02556°E / -29.85806; 31.02556 (Durban City Hall)
Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban (d) 29°49′40″S 31°01′50″E / 29.82778°S 31.03056°E / -29.82778; 31.03056 (Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban)
Hillcrest 29°46′10″S 30°47′12″E / 29.76944°S 30.78667°E / -29.76944; 30.78667 (Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban)
Camperdown 29°43′13″S 30°31′31″E / 29.72028°S 30.52528°E / -29.72028; 30.52528 (Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban)
  1. ^ The 1992 race was won by Charl Mattheus, who was later disqualified, testing positive for a banned stimulant found in cough syrup. Shortly thereafter the particular stimulant was removed from the list of banned substances, but Mattheus was never reinstated as winner.

First South AfricanEdit

As the race has grown in profile globally, and since the end of sporting isolation, international runners have come to dominate the race for periods of time. As a result, the first South African home each year is also now awarded a separate prize.

The following have had the distinction of being the first male and female South African across the finish line (overall finishing position in brackets), in years where the winner was an international runner:


  • 2011 Fanie Matshipa (2nd)
  • 2010 Ludwick Mamabolo (2nd)
  • 2009 Charles Tjiane (3rd)
  • 2008 Harmans Mokgadi (6th)
  • 2007 Mncedisi Mkhize (3rd)
  • 2006 Brian Zondi (2nd)
  • 2004 William Mtolo (4th)
  • 2002 William Mtolo (2nd)
  • 2000 Donovan Wright (4th)
  • 1999 Andrew Kelehe (2nd)
  • 1998 Charl Mattheus (2nd)
  • 1996 Nick Bester (2nd)
  • 1994 Nick Bester (2nd)
  • 1993 Theo Rafiri (2nd)
  • 1972 Dave Bagshaw (2nd)
  • 1965 Jackie Mekler (2nd)
  • 1962 Jackie Mekler (2nd)


  • 2017 Charné Bosman (2nd)
  • 2014 Caroline Wostmann (6th)
  • 2013 Charné Bosman (5th)
  • 2012 Kerry Koen (4th)
  • 2011 Farwa Mentoor (5th)
  • 2010 Farwa Mentoor (5th)
  • 2009 Farwa Mentoor (5th)
  • 2008 Riana van Niekerk (6th)
  • 2007 Farwa Mentoor (4th)
  • 2006 Farwa Mentoor (6th)
  • 2005 Farwa Mentoor (4th)
  • 2004 Farwa Mentoor (3rd)
  • 2003 Farwa Mentoor (8th)
  • 2002 Farwa Mentoor (4th)
  • 2001 Deborah Mattheus (2nd)
  • 2000 Grace de Oliveira (3rd)
  • 1999 Grace de Oliveira (2nd)
  • 1997 Charlotte Noble (5th)
  • 1996 Jowaine Parrott (4th)
  • 1995 Helene Joubert (2nd)
  • 1994 Sanet Beukes (4th)

Medals and demographicsEdit

There is a lot of prestige associated with a Comrades Marathon Green Number. As a result, many athletes aim to complete at least 10 races, which is evident as a clear peak in the distribution of medal counts.[51] The introduction of the back-to-back medal (for running two years in succession) resulted in another peak for athletes with 2 medals.


Recent winners 
Finishers as a function of age and number of medals 

Popular cultureEdit

The Long Run was a 2001 film set in 1999, in which a retired running coach trains a woman for the race.[52]


  1. ^ a b Comrades: Route cut-off times, 2012, archived from the original on June 24, 2012, retrieved June 24, 2012 
  2. ^ "Longest Running Ultramarathons". ARRS. ARRS. 
  3. ^ Cools, Delaine (6 November 2013). "2014 Comrades Marathon Entries Rising Fast". News. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Comrades 90 km". Association of Road Racing Statisticians. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  5. ^ a b Weight, Lindsay (2005). "How to run the Comrades". Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  6. ^ Comrades: General rules and information, 2012, archived from the original on June 19, 2012, retrieved June 24, 2012 
  7. ^ "2013 Cathsseta Spirit of Comrades Award". Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  8. ^ Aerni, John. "Why Comrades Is the Greatest". Running Times Magazine. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  9. ^ "Historischer Comrades Marathon Zieleinlauf". film clip of the 1967 finish. youtube. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  10. ^ Cook, Jonathan (2005-06-15). "Frith the Comrades queen". News24. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  11. ^ Comrades Marathon House, encounter south africa
  12. ^ "Comrades a record breaker". Sport24. 2010-10-19. 
  13. ^ "Comrades marathon sets new Guinness world record". Gomulti. 2010-10-19. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. 
  14. ^ Jorberg, Randolf (2009-05-24). "Comrades Marathon 2009 results". Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  15. ^ "Camille Herron Becomes First American to Win Comrades Marathon in 20 Years". Runner's World. Retrieved 29 July 2017. 
  16. ^ Marathon deaths 'potentially preventable' by Chris Bateman (fulltext pdf)
  17. ^ Man sê hy't Matthee halfpad afgelaai, Die Burger, 1993-6-7 Archived 2012-03-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ Herman Matthee wil weer hardloop, Die Burger, 1993-7-23 Archived 2012-03-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ 'Ek sak my kop in skaamte' Motsoeneng erken Comrades-kullery Armoede en geldnood sy redes, Beeld, 1999-07-22 Archived 2014-02-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ Foto's atleet se doodsteek? `Te veel toevallighede en ongerymdhede', Beeld, 1999-07-22 Archived 2014-02-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ The Motsoeneng brothers - Comrades (South Africa) - The Best,, 2008 Archived 2013-10-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ 2 broers het dié keer glad nie ‘aflos’ gehol nie, Beeld, 2009-05-27 Archived 2014-02-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ Comrades-kuller van 1999 positief getoets vir middel, Beeld, 2010-07-16 Archived 2014-02-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^ Wettig gebruik van verbode middels, vra Comrades-ysterman, Beeld, 1999-07-09 Archived 2014-02-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ Steroide-skok ná Comrades, Beeld, 1999-07-08 Archived 2014-02-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ Lesotho runner faces doping charge,, 2012-08-02
  27. ^ RRW Comrades Marathon Preview – All Eyes On Defending Champion Ludwick Mamabolo,, 2013-05-29
  28. ^ Comrades ‘cheats’ bust,, 2014-02-13
  29. ^ Cheats Exposed at the Comrades Marathon? – Run Talk SA Episode 32,, 2014-02-04
  30. ^ ‘It’s a plot to get me’,, 2014-02-13
  31. ^ Comrades Marathon: Negative Splits and Cheating, Exegetic Analytics, 2014-05-06
  32. ^ Comrades Marathon Negative Splits: The Plot Thickens, Exegetic Analytics, 2014-05-10
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ Wally Hayward & Bill Jamieson: Just Call Me Wally: The Memoirs of Wally Hayward. Penprint, 1999, ISBN 978-0-620-24241-7
  36. ^ Runner History: Dave Rogers
  37. ^ Runner History: Clive Crawley
  38. ^ Runner History: David Williams
  39. ^ Runner 6: Zwelitsha Gono
  40. ^ "Mike Cowling". Retrieved 12 June 2018. 
  41. ^ Runner History: Barry Holland
  42. ^ Runner History: Louis Massyn
  43. ^ Runner History: Dave Lowe
  44. ^ Runner History: Alan Robb
  45. ^ "Runner History: Vic Boston". 
  46. ^ Runner History: Tommy Neitski
  47. ^
  48. ^ Runner History: Kenny Craig
  49. ^ Runner History: Riel Hugo
  50. ^
  51. ^ The Green Number Effect
  52. ^ The Long Run at IMDb.

External linksEdit