Remembering when: The first Comrades Marathon took place

South Africa held its first Comrades Marathon in 1921. It was run by Vic Clapham, ex World War One veteran and other 34 runners, who initiated it as a reunion. Clapham wanted to remember those who had fallen in the war by ultimate testing of body and mind, and triumphing. Sixteen runners completed the 87, 9km (55 mile) race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

Bill Rowan won the 1921 Race and finished in a time of 8:59:00 and his name is now given to the sub 9 hr medal in today’s race. This is according to Sian Theron from Comrades Marathon Association.

Bill Rowan. Pic from Comrades Marathon.

Bill Rowan. Pic from Comrades Marathon.

The first medal awarded in 1921 was a Silver Medal which was awarded to all finishers of the event up until 1931. A special bronze medal was awarded as an exception to Lew Pearson who completed the distance in a time of 12 hours 20 minutes in 1921.

In recent years the race had been held on June 16, but after complaints had been received that the race detracted from Youth Day celebrations, the date for future races was changed in 2006 to a Sunday nearest to the middle of June.

Today, the Comrades Marathon is the most popular road race in South Africa and the biggest ultra-marathon in the world.

Here is a video documentary of The Comrades Marathion:

Source: SA History


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