Smooth sailing for Comrades

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Durban - A large crowd was gathered at the bottom of Fields Hill, outside Pinetown, to cheer on the last group of weary runners who still had 20 km before they reached the finish line of Comrades 2005.

One of the spectators, Sean Ackerman from Durban's Stella Club, was forced to withdraw from the race on Monday after falling ill with flu.

"I felt bummed, after all the hard work and preparation I put in. I was completely gutted," he said.

However, Ackerman spent Thursday travelling between different spots along the race route to support his two training partners.

One runner, Lindsey Robertson, from Scottburgh on the Kwazulu-Natal south coast, delighted the crowd when he stopped to have a sip of water and a quick chat with his family.

His wife Carol said: "His hamstrings are sore and he needed a pep talk, but he's okay, and I'm not so stressed any more."

In the Berea area a group of taxi owners from Pinetown parked with their wives and children, drinking beer and eating braaivleis as they cheered on runners.

"Only 10% of taxis are operating today. We also need a break and it's our tradition to have a party as we watch the runners," said Nhlanhla Mhlongo.

At 45th Cutting runners were greeted by Zulu dancers and children on jumping castles.

It was also a special day for 19 pre-school children from the KwaZulu-NatalMidlands who spent Thursday watching runners enter the Kingsmead Cricket Stadium.

Teacher Sibongile Ndlovo said: "They came to ask me what the Comrades Marathon was, so I decided to bring them here."

She said the children, aged between four and six, would be taken for lunch later in the day before heading home to Hammarsdale.

A spokesperson for Durban Metro Police, Alex Wright, said there were no problems on the city's roads and everything had run according to plan.

Comrades doctor Jeremy Bolton said "we treated people who were tired, had muscle problems and those who had flu".

He said by Thursday afternoon there were still no serious injuries or emergencies.

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