Start: Second highest number of runners

2010-05-31 00:00

BEFORE dawn yesterday, almost 20 000 runners faced the dark and frosty morning by lining up at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall to run the 85th Comrades Marathon.

This year, the large number of runners was second only to that of 2000 when 24 500 runners started.

The 89-kilometre journey from Pietermaritzburg to Durban officially began at 5.30 am, but runners were present from around 4 am, ready to depart. The throng of eager runners stretched four blocks.

Songs like Billy Ocean’s When the Going Gets Tough and Seal’s Amazing blared through huge speakers, while runners sang along and bobbed up and down to keep warm. Some runners rubbed their hands together and uttered audible “brrs” as their bare legs were hit by a cold seven degree breeze.

The city hall was beautifully lit and had an amber glow in the darkness. Television crews, reporters and supporters lined the streets, eager for the action to begin.

Ten minutes before the start gun sounded, runners and spectators alike joined together in a powerful rendition of Shosholoza, and thereafter stood to attention for the national anthem. There were South African flags aplenty, and cheers from a group of Brazilian runners who could sing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika properly — almost.

Once the national anthem was sung, the opening notes of the Comrades anthem — Chariots of Fire — played. All runners looked forward, some took deep breaths and others muttered quick prayers.

The start gun sounded and the runners were off.

Tens of thousands of feet hit the tar, creating a rhythmic melody of thuds as they went along. It took just over 15 minutes for all runners to clear the start line.

From the city hall, the runners made their way to Cato Ridge in the hope they would not be stopped at the first cut-off at 10.40 am.

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