The legendary Comrades Spirit is buoyed by an army of volunteers, some of whom have been supporting the race for over three decades. We take a closer look at the KZN people who make it happen.
There are three tons of boiled potatoes, 800kgs of bananas and nearly 2-million water sachets which need to get from the tables lining the 86.96km route and into the hands of runners. The Comrades Marathon literally couldn’t happen without volunteers. In 2013, 5 000 men and women manned 48 refreshment stations, marshalling the route and generally making sure that the race day goes off smoothly.
Among the corporate sponsors and clubs who’ve been volunteering on Comrades Day, for over three decades, are the Seals Swimming Club and Nedbank. It’s also the 34th year of participation for the Cowie Hill Lions Club. We touched base with Lion Jane Wicks, who is the captain for Table Six at this year’s Comrades. “This year has been an amazing turnout for our club,” she says. “The community always gives to us, so this is our way of giving back to the community.” The table was manned by 50 volunteers this year. It was an early start for the Lions; Jane was at their station to set up from 3.30am on Sunday. Jane says the appreciation from the runners keeps the volunteers coming back. “Last year, one of the runners said if it wasn’t for the support he got at Cowies Hill, he wouldn’t have made it. We try to help them along.”
It took months of planning to put their table together, particularly because as a non-profit organisation, they need to try and secure sponsors. There’s also a strong environmental focus. Volunteers are responsible for cleaning up the area around their table. “All the rubbish is picked up and our site gets inspected. The rubbish is recycled and weighed,” says Jane. Cowies Hill Lions have scooped two third places and last year came in second as the greenest table on the route.
- Comrades organisers expected over 250 000 supporters along the route between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, and estimate that 2.4-million people tune in to watch the event throughout the day. The Comrades Spirit is legendary, and volunteers and the hundreds of thousands of spectators on the day play a huge part in this.
- The Comrades medical facility is possibly the largest temporary facility in the world - outside of a conflict zone. On duty on the day were 60 doctors, 40 nurses and 300 physiotherapists.
- 2013 marked the 88th running of the Comrades. The race was run for the first time 92 years ago, but was put on hold for four years during World War II. Since then it has been an annual event.