The 92nd edition of the Comrades Marathon will feature plenty of safety and security, enhanced drug testing and limited inconvenience to residents along the changed route on Sunday.
There could also be a record finish in this ultimate human race that will involve just under 19 000 approved runners fighting themselves and the elements in an up-run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, according to race officials.
Speaking at a press conference on the Durban beachfront on Wednesday, race director Rowyn James from the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) said they will have 1 180 marshals and 200 community marshals assisting the SAPS, Metro and CMA’s security providers; that every pothole along the route had been filled; and that they could boast the biggest temporary medical facility outside of what would be used in a disaster zone.
There will be 45 fully-stocked refreshment stations along the route and the top 13 men and women would be tested for drugs, three more than before in each section, he said.
The race starts at 5.30 am outside Durban City Hall on Sunday and finishes 12 hours later at Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg, long after the elite athletes would have conquered the official 2017 race distance of 86,73 km.
“I am sticking my neck out and saying we are going to see the record broken, as happened in the down-run last year,” said James.
James claimed that residents of only three areas in Pietermaritzburg — Cleland, Meadows and, of course, Scottsville — would be adversely affected by Sunday’s race, but if they desperately needed to get out of their neighbourhoods on the day, there would be traffic escorts on hand to help them get through a selected exit/entry point in each area.
CMA general manager Chris Fisher said the race’s economic impact on the region had been more than R600 million last year and he expected that figure to increase this year.
He said a sign of this was that there were as many as 73 companies exhibiting at the Comrades Expo in Durban and a whopping 55 000 visitors were expected.
Of course, there are always fun and colourful elements amid the elite competitors in the race and this will include the sight of a “herd of four members of The Cows” who will be raising funds for young cancer sufferers.
They will join official Comrades charities that include Community Chests of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, PinkDrive, Sports Trust, Starfish-Greathearts, Wildlands and World Vision.
Sunday’s race will be covered live by SABC2.