Everything about the Comrades Marathon screams endurance. Even the way the race came into being called for the kind of perseverance that is now synonymous with the race.
Today it is well-known that Vic Clapham created the race after the First World War. What is perhaps less well-known is that the race would not have got off the ground without Clapham’s high levels of endurance, determination and stamina.
For nearly four years he petitioned local athletics authorities and “The Comrades of The Great War” association, a group set up to represent the rights of returning or discharged soldiers, to endorse the “Comrades Marathon”.
After unsuccessful attempts in 1918, 1919 and 1920, Clapham was eventually loaned two rand and received the blessing of The Comrades of The Great War to name his event the Comrades Marathon.
Now, 96 years and 92 races later, the Comrades Marathon is as famous for its race day camaraderie as it is for the mighty distance that runners are required to cover. That’s why the Old Mutual Spirit of Comrades Awards was launched, to highlight the spirit of a race that is embodied by the camaraderie, selflessness, dedication, and perseverance of runners. Every year the awards recognise three participants who best showcase these qualities.
Last year the three winners were Dr Shoyab Wadee, Rupin Mehta and India’s Amit Sheth. Wadee stopped and sacrificed his race to aid a fellow runner who had slumped at the side of the road; Mehta also sacrificed his race when stopping to assist two flailing runners regain their composure; and Sheth was awarded the Spirit of Comrades for his incredible contribution to the race as a Comrades International Brand Ambassador for the Indian subcontinent. In 2009 Sheth became the first Indian national to complete the race; last year that number had grown to almost 100.
“Old Mutual is very proud to be associated with an event that identifies and salutes remarkable individuals and honours the very best of human nature,” says Karen Thomas, Old Mutual Head of Brand.
“Every year thousands of runners at Comrades deal with numerous issues on race day, and in our eyes every Comrades runner is special,” she continues. “However, the Spirit of Comrades is dedicated to those people who are able to capture the ethos of this incredible race through deeds that go above and beyond the call of duty of a mere race participant. There are not many races around the world like Comrades, and that’s what makes the Comrades Marathon and the Spirit of Comrades so uniquely powerful.”
The awardees are nominated by The Comrades Marathon Association members, Comrades Marathon runners and the general public; so if you witnessed amazing feats of “spirit” on 4 June this year be sure to let the Comrades Marathon Association know all about it.
With just short of 90km covered on race day this year, there will undoubtedly be plenty of heroes to choose from.