The 2020 Comrades Marathon between Pietermaritzburg and Durban has become the latest casualty of COVID-19 and joins a long list of major international sporting events cancelled due to the pandemic.
Athletics South Africa, in conjunction with the Comrades Marathon Association and KwaZulu-Natal Athletics, made the decision after an initial postponement in the hope that circumstances would improve and be conducive for the race to go ahead.
It is only the second time that the race is cancelled in its 99 year history after it was also cancelled during the second World War. Athletics South Africa had last month postponed the event for a second time after government’s extension of the lockdown.
It had hoped for the Ultimate Human Race to take place on a date not later than end of September, owing to climatic conditions. But with the COVID-19 pandemic not showing any signs of abating and anticipated to peak in the coming months, there was no option but to cancel the ultra-marathon.
“We have arrived at this decision that rather than hopping and promising let us cancel the event and it was not an easy decision because it’s the biggest in our calendar. It was a difficult decision but we had to take it in the interest of life’s of people, says Aleck Skhosana who is the ASA President.
It is another blow for athletics in South Africa with many other events having been cancelled. It results in a loss of income, but Skhosana says the marathon is more than just a source of income for the athletes.
“Most people do it for the enjoyment, the pride and association with this magnificent race. It’s about the spirit, comradeship people run in buses and they are friends,” says Skhosana.
With the Tokyo Olympic Games postponed to next year, ASA will have to look at organising additional road races, especially for the country’s elite athletes. The athletes will need kilometres in their legs if they want to be competitive at the Games.
“All athletes will enter any race when they open up races again. There is a lot of factors that we have to take into consideration. Maybe the way to go is to host races for top elites with TV coverage,” says Nick Bester, who is a previous winner.
Local entrants of the marathon will not be refunded their entry fee, but will instead receive their runners’ T-shirt and goodie bag, as well as a Comrades badge and flash disk. Foreign entrants will have their entry fees deferred to the 2021 race which will be the 95th edition of the Comrades Marathon.