Serpie Planner - event reports

Comrades Marathon (17 Jun 2007)

As the biggest ultra in the world, with 12,000 runners this year, the atmosphere was bound to be electric. But standing on the start line in Pietermaritzburg (South Africa) in the dark just before 5:30am with Chariots of Fire in the background really is something special. It was close to freezing at the start but by the end of the race in Durban it can get up to 30 degrees.

The route has 5 major hills but undulates over the 89.3km road course. It alternates each year between the down-run of Pietermaritzburg-Durban and the up-run in the opposite direction. Most say the down run is harder on the legs but running that far uphill can't be too easy either so it probably depends on whether you're aiming to go fast or to finish within the cut-off of 12 hours.

Fantastic support the whole way keeps you going, which I found to be better even than in the London marathon. Plus water/energade/food tables every km or two really helps too. If you only do 1 ultra, do this one.

Race report by Ian Sharman

Comrades Marathon (15 Jun 2008)

The biggest ultra in the world (11,000 entrants and 8,400 finishers this year) was spectacular like always. This year was the up-run, going from Durban to Pietermaritzburg in South Africa. It alternates direction from year to year and the up run ends up 650m higher than it starts, but with significant hills in-between along the roads.

The atmosphere is unparalleled by any other race in the world, from the pre-dawn start to the roaring crowds in the stadium at the finish. Without doubt it has better and more encouraging support than the big city marathons such as NYC or London since the entire country watches it avidly, making it front page news with day-long TV coverage.

A very tough course due to the distance, hills and heat, but immaculately organised with drink/food stations every mile or so along the course. It has to be seen to be believed and anyone who witnesses it has the urge to run it. As usual, the majority of the field came in in the last 2 hours before the 12 hour cut-off and all were treated as heroes.

In addition, the main nationality of foreign runners was British, with 140ish runners. I'll be back again next year for my 3rd Comrades without doubt.