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Book Excerpt: Comrades Marathon: The Ultimate Human Race by John Cameron-Dow

Stephen Muzhingi

Comrades MarathonYesterday almost 20 000 people took part in the Comrades Marathon from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, covering 86.96km. Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi collected his third Comrades win, making him the first man in 23 years to win the Comrades three times in a row. The woman’s title went to Comrades’ stalwart, Elena Nurgalieva, who has won six times. Read an excerpt from the timely published Comrades Marathon: The Ultimate Human Race by John Cameron-Dow, courtesy Penguin SA:

One of Vic Clapham’s most significant contributions to the race that he founded was the incomparably beautiful and fiercely demanding course over which it is run, between capital and seaport in annually alternating directions. The distance and terrain are such as to take the average person to the very limit of human ability in the quest to cover the distance on foot within 12 hours. Nowhere else in the world is there any race quite like it.

Which is the easier, the ‘up’ or the ‘down’? Many experts will tell you quite categorically that the ‘up’ is easier. Just as many will confidently proclaim the opposite. What is the truth, then? Frankly, there is no definitive answer. There are so many variables, including one’s state of fitness, one’s natural ability and conditions on the day in the two very different climates of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Two general observations can be made: the ‘down’ run is, for most, slightly faster than the ‘up’, and the ‘up’ run, it would seem, produces a little less discomfort the following day. The difference is marginal.

The Comrades route is not just about distance, demanding gradients and time constraints. The road between Pietermaritzburg and Durban is a succession of obstacles, big and small, steep and (occasionally) flat. It is also a part of South Africa that is rich in history, much of it brought to mind annually by the landmarks and vantage points featured on race day.

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Image courtesy Bulawayo24


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