Comrades: New rule to help with entries

2012-02-08 00:00

THANKS to new substitution rules that will allow runners to fill the places of athletes who pull out of the race at the last minute, a record number of contestants are expected to line up for this year’s Comrades Marathon.

“We want to get as many people running as possible,” race director Johan van Staden said this week.

“If an athlete has to pull out at the last minute because of injury or illness, he can select another suitable runner to take his place and his number in the starting line-up,” he explained.

Van Staden said this would be policed properly as substitutes needed to have completed the requirements of qualifying for the race.

He said that in the past, the number of entries never matched the actual number of people lining up for the race, which had been a problem that had taken a while to resolve.

However, this would change when an estimated 18 000 hopeful runners line up outside Pietermaritzburg City Hall on June 3 for the race’s down-run.

This year’s Comrades will be Van Staden’s third as race director. He said he was enjoying the challenges of arranging the world’s premier ultra marathon.

“It always amazes me to finally see all of the people lined up to start the race,” he said.

“It’s a sense of accomplishment. And the human interest stories that you hear about after the race has finished makes every­thing worthwhile.”

He said that defending champion Stephen Muzhingi would be back to defend his title and that runners would have their hands full trying to take the title.

“We are hoping for a local winner this year. There are lots of promising runners coming through the system, but Muzhingi is a class act.”

Spectators will have a new spectator point at Camperdown, offering good views of the race.

Van Staden said a Comrades’ sponsor would launch a new vehicle during the race.

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