30 May 2014
The Comrades Marathon Association’s (CMA’s) race director, Rowyn James, briefed the media in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday on preparations for the 89th Comrades Marathon, which starts at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall at 05:30 on Sunday morning.
South Africa’s Comrades Marathon was recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest ultra-marathon after drawing 23 568 entries in 2010, with 13 343 runners finishing the race before the 12-hour cut-off time.
James said the official route distance for this year’s down-run is 89.28km.
With the event taking place over such a great distance, it presents a huge logistical undertaking.
‘A magnificent experience’
“We have catered in every possible way to make the 2014 Comrades Marathon a magnificent experience for our runners. We wish all participants a great run on Race Day,” James said.
The route will feature 46 fully stocked refreshment stations, serving water, fruit, energy drinks, biscuits and cooked potatoes. The stations will be manned by nearly 5 000 volunteers.
The South African Police Service (SAPS), Metro Police, the CMA’s security service provider, Bhejane Security, and other law enforcement officials will be assisted by 300 community marshals on race day. Bomb sweeps will be carried out by SAPS Bomb Squad personnel at the Comrades start and finish venues before and during the race, as per protocol over the past two decades.
Extensive medical, emergency, first aid and physiotherapy provisions for the race’s thousands of participants have also been put in place. Sponsored by Netcare 911, the much-needed medical amenities will be available at strategic positions along the 89km Comrades route and at the finish venue at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead Cricket Stadium in Durban.
A dedicated emergency helicopter that ensures immediate medical assistance for runners will also be available should the need arise. It will be directed by the Joint Operations Control (JOC), based at the finish venue, which is equipped with eight computers, and a full complement of committed personnel to operate and record all details and dispatch vehicles, as and when necessary.
There are eight Netcare 911 Physio/First Aid Stations, which incorporate qualified physiotherapists, professional nurses and paramedical staff.
The stations can treat minor medical problems, as well as do blood sugar testing, and can be further used to treat or stabilise runners until the arrival of ambulances. Physio students will also be positioned at certain refreshment stations along the route and a physio tent will be set up at the finish.
Headed by the Comrades Doctor, Dr Jeremy Boulter, the extensive Adcock Ingram Critical Care Medical Tent at the finish is equally equipped to handle just about any medical eventuality. It comprises 50 doctors and interns, 20 nurses and a mini laboratory, courtesy of Ampath Laboratories.
Other facilities at the Tent include a 3-bed fully equipped ICU-type resuscitation area, which comprises its own specialist emergency team to provide appropriate emergency care if required.
A critical care emergency facility right on the finish line has also been set up in order for athletes to access on-the-spot medical help if needed. It is staffed by an emergency care doctor and a paramedic.
The purpose of the facility is to have in place a primary, emergency resuscitation area if a runner is in severe trouble at the finish, and requires immediate care, prior to being transferred to the medical tent.
Additionally, an advanced life support paramedic will be stationed along, or at the end of the Toyota Mile [the last mile of the race] for the purposes of responding to calls to runners in that area who are in trouble before they enter the stadium.
In addition to all of the above facilities, there is the St. John’s Ambulance Tent, which will provide runners with facilities such as R&R, rub-downs, strapping, massage and the like.
The Netcare group of hospitals provide required facilities for Comrades race day, with St. Anne’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg being utilised for those runners who require hospitalisation before halfway. For those runners requiring attention in the second half of the race and at the finish, Durban’s St. Augustines will see to their needs.
Nearly 50 000 people are expected to descend on the finish venue, while more than 250 000 will once again line the route and cheer on the runners.