Comradely aid for struggling runners

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

As many as 800 runners are expected to be accommodated by the Comrades Marathon Association's (CMA) underprivileged Runner programme this year.

The programme, initiated by the CMA, will provide runners - who could otherwise not take part in the race - with basic accommodation, meals and essential transportation.

CMA marketing coordinator Thami Vilakazi explained the rationale behind the scheme.

"For many years runners who could not afford accommodation would sleep under trees and on pavements the night before a race.

"The runners had all stated that they did not have money for accommodation and meals but would not miss the Comrades Marathon for anything.

"This was obviously not acceptable. So we initiated a scheme whereby runners could apply to be housed and fed by us.

"This year we will accommodate runners at the YMCA in Pietermaritzburg the night before and the day of the race.

"We will provide meals, transport to and from registration and transport to the start and finish and back to the YMCA," he said.

The programme has been an unqualified success. He said last year they had about 590 runners taking advantage of the opportunity.

"This year we have noticed that more runners are struggling with the high costs of transportation to KwaZulu-Natal.

"This means they have nothing left over for accommodation and meals," he said.

Celebrities expected to take part in this year's 89km down run are Redi Direko of 702, kwaito artist Kabelo Mabalane and Olympic medallist Yuko Arimori.