Comrades dates switch for soccer events

2008-05-12 00:00

Athletics South Africa and the Comrades Marathon Association yesterday announced the dates for the 2009 and 2010 races.

Next year’s event will move back to Sunday, May 24 — the old Empire Day date. That means that the 84th Comrades marathon will see over 12 000 runners line up on the same spot that the 34 pioneers of the first race, held in 1921, started their historic trip from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. The race has subsequently earned world-wide acclaim, and attracted the largest ultramarathon field of 24 000 runners in 2000.

A clash of timing with the 2010 World Cup — which will commence on June 11 at Soccer City — will see the Comrades move to Sunday, May 30.

President of Athletics South Africa, Leonard Chuene, said: “In 2010, we have the Fifa World Cup and in 2009, the Fifa Confederations Cup is scheduled for June 14 to 28. The CMA applied for date changes through KwaZulu-Natal Athletics and in consultation with the relevant local and provincial governments. Athletics South Africa has approved the new dates.”

The 2010 race will start in Durban and will be an up run to the Pietermaritzburg Oval in Alexander Park.

“We are particularly grateful to ASA, KZNA and the municipalities of Msunduzi and eThekwini for making this change possible,” said Dave Dixon, chairman of Comrades Marathon Association.

The date of the Comrades has changed many times over the years. The 1951 edition was the last on May 24, before Empire day was abolished, with the next two being held on the Queen’s birthday — July 13 and 14 — in order to avoid the Sunday.

The cooler July weather contributed to Wally Hayward’s record-breaking, sub six-hour run in 1953.

After another Hayward record on June 12, 1954, the date became “fixed” on the Union Day public holiday of May 31. From 1961, this became Republic Day and, apart from Sundays, this date continued until the holiday was abolished in democratic South Africa, when June 16 — Youth Day — became race day.

Last year, in order to respect and avoid a clash with the commemorations of the 1976 Soweto student uprising and the many other Youth Day celebrations throughout South Africa, the race was held on Sunday, June 17.

This year’s race will be run on Sunday, June 15.

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