Extra incentive for Comrades runners

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Runners in this year's Comrades Marathon who fail to earn a gold medal but manage to finish the arduous 89km road race within six hours, will receive a Wally Hayward medal.

The medal has been established by the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) to honour Hayward, who died last year.

The race will start from Pietermaritzburg and finish in Durban on June 17.

"Anyone who can break six hours in the Comrades Marathon is an elite runner, but these days not all of them can earn a gold medal. This new medal is our way of recognising these outstanding performances and providing an incentive to those elite athletes who miss a gold medal," explained Dave Dixon, chairman of the CMA.

"The new medal also serves another purpose - the desire of the CMA to honour one of South Africa's greatest athletes. The late Wally Hayward was one of the greatest Comrades runners, with five wins and seven finishes. He had a remarkable Comrades career that spanned 60 years and was the oldest person ever to finish the race. In creating this medal, the CMA salutes a man who epitomised the spirit of the race and who inspired thousands of men and women to run it,'' added Dixon.

The CMA has also unveiled its theme for this year's race: "The Ultimate Human Race - It Will Define You".

Gary Boshoff, Comrades Marathon general manager, said: "We are excited about our 2007 theme and believe that the phrase, 'it will define you', captures the spirit of the race, which is far more than simply running from point A to point B. Through this theme, we hope to encourage more people to run the race."