Comrades set to move

2020-04-08 14:30

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Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) chairperson Cheryl Winn has apologised to runners for the uncertainty over the race set for June, but says a postponement is now likely and a final decision will be made by April 17.

A new race date would have to be before October 4 for climatic reasons, she said, failing which it would be cancelled altogether for the first time since World War 2. There have been 27 000 entries for this year’s race, including more than 1 000 overseas athletes.

Since Covid-19 started to force the cancellation or postponement of sports events more than a month ago, there have been contrasting views about Comrades going ahead as planned on June 14 from Athletics South Africa and Winn’s organisation. Several runners and coaches have also expressed their views on the matter, with most expecting a postponement of the race.

Winn now concedes that “it is becoming increasingly unlikely that the 2020 Comrades Marathon will be staged on June 14”, according to an e-mail she sent to Comrades entrants.

“For the past 32 days, CMA has been inundated with messages, phone calls, intense media speculation, personal representations and social media posts, which have fallen roughly into four categories — support, criticism, anxiety and expressions of concern regarding specific aspects pertaining to the race.

“While we have appreciated and have been bolstered by the messages of support we have received from runners, we have been equally touched and taken cognisance of the criticisms, expressions of anxiety and concerns pertaining to specific aspects, such as the cancellation of qualifying events, the substitution period, restrictions on training and entry fees. We understand the frustration, uncertainty, fears and concerns our runners are experiencing.”

She said CMA were engaging closely with ASA and would also take guidance from the government as to the fate of the race, but confirmed the high possibility of it being pushed back, something that ASA reportedly assured the government of several weeks ago without the approval of Winn’s organisation.

She said: “Considering the ramifications of the 21-day national lockdown, and as Covid-19 numbers in South Africa and around the world continue to escalate, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that the 2020 Comrades Marathon will be staged on June 14 ... With regard to possible postponement, which would require ASA sanction, the CMA board is of the view that the race cannot be staged later than October 4 owing to climatic conditions, failing which the 2020 Comrades Marathon will have to be cancelled for the first and only time since World War 2 in the 99- year history of the race.”

Winn added: “We trust that runners will appreciate that within an extremely congested athletics calendar that is largely constructed around the Comrades Marathon, it is no easy task to identify an alternative date, given the impact it will have on other road running fixtures, the availability of venues and other resources, climatic conditions, and other competitive sporting and entertainment events which are also looking for alternative dates and venues in the latter half of the year.”

Her organisation also announced that qualifying criteria were being revisited.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  comrades marathon

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