The route runs between Durban on the Indian Ocean – sea level – to Pietermaritzburg and crosses a terrain which rises and falls several times, reaching almost 900 meters above sea level at one point.
And to make things worse, there is a time limit – argh! You must finish within 12 hours to get a medal and finishing in that time is not a given. Over fifty percent of the runners finish in the last hour and several finish late. Many don’t make it at all.
The race is run in both directions. Sometimes up – Durban to PMB – and sometimes down but don’t kid yourself, even down is no piece of cake. The record times for each are only 5 minutes apart.
In spite of these limitations it has become one of the most popular races going and this year registrations reached a record high of 19,617 for an up run. Approximately 1,300 runners came from overseas. Considering the length and difficulty of the course, and how far South Africa is from the rest of the world, those numbers are impressive.
One of the international entrants was my friend Ritchie Miller from Avalon Church in McDonough, Ga. It was his first Comrades, his longest marathon and his most difficult run ever. He didn’t complete the race in regulation time but the cause he ran for compelled him to make it across the finish line.
He ran to raise money for charity:
- Those supported through his church’s ministry, Avalon Hope
- And the SACRP – South African Children’s Resiliency Project – otherwise known as CRP. The CRP is the brain child of Dr. Robert Graham who is a US citizen and highly qualified but has dedicated himself to the cause of African children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
The neat thing about this race is the route runs right by the CRP orphan village and because roads are closed for the race, the occupants of the village have no choice but to sit beside the road cheering the runners on, and sipping cool drinks of course.
But back to Ritchie.
Running this race was no small matter. He is fairly healthy for a man of his age – I’m not giving that away – but he trained for an entire year and to qualify was required to run several preliminary races, while maintaining a full work schedule. Then, with all that done, he had to travel several thousand miles to a different time zone and a different season – from summer to winter – and try to get acclimated sufficiently to run this race without hick-ups.
He also had to sleep on unfamiliar beds, get familiar with the race route, deal with logistics and even participate in ministry strategy meetings. I get a headache thinking about it.
And, yes, he made it but not without hitches. He got a cold after arriving in South Africa and the prescribed medication didn’t go down so well. It dehydrated him. He also developed cramps only 10 kilometers into the race, before even reaching the first climb. It made for a difficult start but to his credit he ran and finished the race.
Was it worth it? Yes! The effort raised approximately R500,000 all of which is dedicated to very worthwhile charitable causes.
And, if you are of a mind, you can make contributions to either charity or both. The support will serve a good purpose and you will be blessed for it.
Lisa – on the left – was the very last runner. At the point this picture was taken she had just 11 kilometers to go. Don’t know if she made it but she had a great smile for the camera. Since she was the last runner, the road was opening behind her and a long line of cars were following closely.