Roar Africa

Exploring Africa Since 1688

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Comrades Ultra Marathon

from Rob Breen: Tri-Nations for Starfish

Last month my friends Mike Pienaar (South Africa), Peter Boyd (Scotland) and I (U.S.A.) ran the Comrades 56mile ultra-marathon raising money for Starfish Greathearts Foundation. It was Pete and my first Comrades and Mike's tenth. Yes, I did say tenth!

In South Africa it seems "normal" to do such a thing once, twice, ten or even more times. I noticed that in the U.S.A. I received a lot of "street-cred" mentioning the race whereas in South Africa people would say something like "Oh, that's nice, how many have you run? My grandfather is running his 30th this year."

At 56 miles the Comrades is the oldest and the largest but not the longest ultra-marathon in the world. It was started by a group of WWI veterans to honor their friends who had died in the war. Attracting about 12,000 runners it alternates direction annually between Pietermaritzburg (both Mike and my home town) and Durban. It winds through the Valley of a Thousand Hills. You either climb a total of 7,000 and descend 5,000 feet over the course of the race or vice-versa. Our year was "downhill". Some wise cracks were urging us on about 1 hour in and some 50miles (and 9+ hours) to go with "C'mon guys, it's downhill from here". Riiiight! But wow the support was fantastic.

The most rewarding cheers were form the Starfish kids were were raising money for. Starfish supports children orphaned by HIV/AIDs and the area of South Africa we ran through is one of the hardest hit by HIV/AIDs in the world. They recognized us by our Starfish caps and logos and gave us goosebumps with their cheering. You can support them at

We took it slow and steady and finally finished the race in about 10.5 hours. Mike gained entry into the coveted (by nutters) Green Number Club for his tenth finish. Pete and I were chuffed with our regular nutter membership status. Well....for now anyway.

If you are a runner think about putting The Comrades on your to-do list. As they say it is "The Ultimate Human Race. It Will Define You! "

After the race enjoy the country with your family or running mates. Roar Africa will create a private trip for you with all the R&R you deserve!

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