Comrades say sorry after cut-off consternation

Henry

Organizers of the Comrades marathon have promised that they will work hard behind the scenes to determine more fair times at the respective cut-off points.

This follows after many athletes expressed their displeasure that they were cut off too early in this year’s race between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. They argue that they were therefore deprived of a fair chance to complete the iconic ultramarathon.

One of the highlights on the South African sports calendar is the many athletes who, every year – just before the official Comrades cut-off – still persevere out of sheer determination and willpower in a desperate attempt to finish the race.

This year, however, there were only a handful of bitter enders to be seen at the Kingsmead cricket stadium.

“The Comrades Association (CMA) would like to apologize categorically and unconditionally to the runners who were affected by the cut-off times at Pinetown (68.86 km) and Sherwood (81.31 km),” it said in a statement.

To ensure that a similar blip does not again have a negative impact on participants’ race experience, the CMA will engage “relevant professionals” to assist its technical team in determining a fair time at each cut-off, based on the official distance of the race.

Incorrect cut-off times on the official Comrades app, which had not yet been updated after the previous year’s action, also added to the consternation.

The CMA has indicated that it will reach out to the runners affected by the blunder.

Despite the cut-off issue, 92.68% of the 16,072 participants who lined up at the starting point in Pietermaritzburg successfully completed the race.

This is the seventh highest finish rate in the 102 years that the Comrades have been offered.

According to Mqondisi Ngcobo, CMA chairman, the athletes’ complaints and grievances are certainly being listened to.

“The CMA is aware of the issues and is working with the relevant sub-committees to tackle them.”

Concerns were also expressed about athletes’ safety, T-shirt sizes, medals and litter, among other things.

“The main aim of the CMA is to ensure an enjoyable and safe ultramarathon for every participant. At the same time, it is important to maintain the marathon’s reputation as the ‘Ultimate Human Race‘ to live up to,” concluded Ngcobo.