In the spirit of Comrades

2010-05-31 00:00

THE human spirit, determination and ubuntu ruled the 2010 Comrades Marathon, which has been touted the most successful marathon to date.

More than 18 000 runners braved the icy Pietermaritzburg weather yesterday and hit the roads to complete what is known as the world’s toughest ultra marathon.

At Sahara Cricket stadium in Durban, the finish for this year’s race, the mood was festive; thousands of spectators took advantage of the warmer climate and packed the stadium’s green lawns.

Official World Cup mascot Zakumi entertained young and old with his version of the Diski Dance, and had spectators in stitches when he pretended to run the last 100 metres.

Some spectators took advantage of the music and danced while runners raced to the finish.

While it was clear that some runners wanted to set records for themselves, others, dressed in funny costumes and wigs, took time to entertain spectators.

Several runners were in World Cup spirit, clad in the colours of the South African flag and carrying vuvuzelas, which they blew on entering the sta­dium.

Other participants carried posters and banners for the charities they supported.

Dutch runners Irmgard Gijsen and Sraar Theeuwen entered the Comrades to raise funds towards the building of a pre-school in Bruntville near Mooi River.

Both decided they would use the race to support the Mabhalane Mthembu Foundation, which is campaigning for funds to build the school. The pair have raised over R250 000 for the foundation by running in ultra marathons around the world.

Gijsen burst into tears when she crossed the finish line; Theeuwen had to hold her while she calmed down.

“We wanted to use this amazing race to help that community. The Comrades has a great spirit and we are so glad that we were here. We will be back next year,” said Gijsen.

More than 2 000 runners wore pink to support the Pink Drive campaign, which raises awareness for breast cancer.

Roy Nattress draped himself in every shade of pink and even wore a skirt to support the campaign, He finished just before the 12-hour cut off and, even though he was exhausted, still had enough energy to show off his neon pink miniskirt.

Four United Kingdom friends, Ro­bert Halt, Stephen Robins, Stephanie Fleeney and Kenneth Donaldson, took turns to wear a 12-kilogram rhino suit to raise money for the Save the Rhino Fund.

They have also run the London and New York marathons, but admitted that the Comrades Marathon was the greatest example of the human spirit.

“We boil in that suit, but it’s for a worthy cause. It was awesome being here. We definitely experienced the World Cup spirit out there,” said Donaldson, who crossed the finish in the suit.

While some runners simply passed out after crossing the finish line, Gary Morgan, a journalist from Michigan in America, decided he would take off his running shoes and put on his wri­ter’s hat to show the world what the Comrades Marathon was about.

Morgan, who ran his second Comrades, finished the race in nine hours and decided he would document the finish of the race.

“This shows my dedication. I had a great race and I still have some energy, so I thought that I would write something for my website,” he said.

Morgan is also a 1998 gold Olym­pian.

“I will be back next year for more. The Comrades is a fantastic event, it has such spirit. I have never seen anything like it,” he said.

The race was not without its share of drama.

At the start, a woman fell and broke her leg. It is alleged that she was trampled by other runners.

Medical convener Dr Jeremy Boulter said the woman was rushed to St Anne’s Hospital where she underwent surgery and is in a stable condition.

Some Comrades officials were not allowed on the route even though they had marked cars. There were also unconfirmed reports that Metro Police towed some of these vehicles away.

COMRADES HAS A GREAT SPIRIT AND WE ARE SO GLAD THAT WE WERE HERE.

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