Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
2 minute read
13 Jan 2021
4:23 pm

Covid impact: Comrades and Two Oceans races again under threat

Wesley Botton

The plan is still to hold the world's biggest ultra on June 13, but if the lockdown restrictions stay in place it will be almost impossible for the race to go ahead.

Gerda Steyn, the winner of the 94th Comrades Marathon on June 9, 2019 in Durban, is staying in good shape at her training base in Dubai. Picture: Getty Images

Though race organisers and athletics administrators remain hopeful that mass participation events will resume this year, the road running calendar could be scratched once again unless there is significant progress in the ongoing battle against Covid-19.

“Under level three (lockdown regulations) we all know what that means,” Athletics South Africa (ASA) president Aleck Skhosana said on Wednesday.

“Most social gatherings and events are not going to take place.”

While the federation had released a provisional 2021 fixtures list which included all national championships and major events, Skhosana said the final calendar would depend on Covid restrictions.

“We’re hoping to have more clarity from the ministers by the end of this week,” he said.

“When we move back to level one there will be more events taking place, including the national championships.

“Various provinces held events when we were previously under level one and they were quite successful.”

Due to the lockdown, races across the country were cancelled last year, including the Comrades and Two Oceans ultra-marathons, the Cape Town and Soweto standard marathons, and various shorter distance series, with virtual races becoming the norm.

Comrades Marathon race director Rowyn James said organisers of the country’s oldest road race were proceeding with their provisional plans to hold the event on June 13, though the ultra-marathon’s centenary celebrations would depend on restrictions put in place by government and ASA.

Under level three, professional and amateur sports were allowed, but mass gatherings were not, limiting codes to elite level participation.

Even if the lockdown was lifted to level one, however, James said it remained a challenge to hold road running events, with only 500 people allowed to attend outdoor gatherings.

They were hoping for more clarity on the way forward within the next month.

“For any club, it’s just not financially viable to put on a race for 500 people due to the operational costs,” James said.

“For us, at Comrades, we’re still hopeful, but if we are restricted by the lockdown under the current regulations, we aim to host a spectacular virtual event.”

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