2008-06-06 00:00

COMRADES runners will no longer be allowed to help a fellow competitor across the finish line. If they do, both the Good Samaritan and the friend in need will be disqualified.

Comrades Marathon officials have said that this year, they will enforce the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rule that a runner may not provide physical assistance to another.

While some say that this will destroy the camaraderie among runners, Comrades Marathon race director Renee Jordaan said it will ensure the health and safety of runners.

Jordaan said that the rule will be strictly enforced this year when 11 000 runners participate in the gruelling 89-km run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg on June 15.

The crackdown follows the death of two runners during last year’s race, when concerned runners carried the exhausted runners across the line instead of getting them medical help.

Jordaan said the rules clearly state that runners may not carry an exhausted or injured runner over the finish line.

“We have always had this rule in place but overlooked it. However, this year we will enforce it, as we do not want any more deaths,” she said.

She said medical marshals along the route will instruct runners to continue the race while they attend to injured runners.

“These are against the rules of the race. Anyone found doing this will immediately be disqualified from the race,” she said.

Jordaan said the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has embarked on an education campaign to inform runners about their medical facilities. “These rules are set out in our brochures, newsletters and our website. Our runners are aware that they will not be able to carry runners over the finish line,” she said.

According to the medical protocol, the CMA’s medical tent will have 40 doctors, 20 nurses and a two-bed ICU-type resuscitation area, with a specialist team to provide appropriate emergency care if needed.

This year, a small medical tent will be at the finish line for runners who cannot cross the line. A doctor and paramedic will treat exhausted and injured runners before they are transferred to the medical tent.

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