Comrades all

2008-06-17 00:00

IT is 90 years since World War 1 ended. Only one or two involved in that great conflict are still alive. But something of the spirit of comradeship that developed among the soldiers who experienced the unspeakable horrors of trench warfare on the Western Front is still encapsulated in the Comrades Marathon, first run in 1921 to commemorate and perpetuate that spirit.

While the professional long-distance runners, the Shvetsovs and the Nurgalievas, are those who grab the headlines and win the medals and the monetary prizes, it is those at the back, the amateurs, the unknown thousands, who are the true comrades and who best represent the spirit of the race.

The arrival of the final “bus” of runners at the finishing line moments before the cut-off time, for instance, men and women who had run together and encouraged each other throughout the long day, was an emotional moment for them and for the spectators.

Theirs was the truest expression of comradeship.

Equally commendable was the work of the organisers behind the scenes, the marshals, the medical teams and the support tables, whose unstinting efforts made the race a miracle of smoothness. Not commendable at all, however, was the predation of criminal elements among the cheering supporters along the route, who robbed a runner of his shoes at gunpoint.

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