The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has announced the names of the dignitaries who will fire the cut-off guns for the various medals at next week’s 90th Comrades Marathon (Sunday, 31 May 2015). Among them are Jackie Mekler, Sam Tshabalala, Bernard Gomersall, Poobie Naidoo and Macdonald Chitja. As per the Comrades Marathon Up-Run tradition, eThekwini Mayor, The Honourable James Nxumalo will fire the gun at 05:30, to signal the start of the 90th running of South Africa’s favourite race outside the Durban City Hall.
The 11:30 Cut-off Gun for the Wally Hayward Medal which is awarded to runners from 11th position who finish under 6 hours, will be fired by the oldest living winner of the Comrades Marathon, Jackie Mekler. The medal was named after Hayward for having been the first winner of the race ever to have broken the 6-hour barrier in the 1953 Down-Run. Significantly, seven years later Jackie Mekler became the first winner to break the 6-hour barrier on the Up-Run.
Both Mekler and Hayward are among an illustrious group of only six runners ever to have won the race on five occasions. The 13:00 cut-off Gun for the Silver Medal which is awarded to runners who finish between 6 and 7½ hours, will be fired by Sam Tshabalala, the first black person ever to win the Comrades Marathon, a distinction he earned in 1989, in one of the most momentous of Comrades Marathon races. He completed 13 Comrades Marathons in total, but sadly was never again able to compete at the same level, having been hampered by severe injuries sustained in a motor accident shortly after his classic win.
But it only takes a single moment of genius to create history, and that is what Sam Tshabalala did in 1989. The honour of firing the 14:30 cut-off Gun for the Bill Rowan Medal, which is awarded to runners who finish in under nine hours, goes to the British winner of the Comrades Marathon exactly 50 years ago, Bernard Gomersall. A member of the Road Runners Club of England, Bernard Gomersall won the 1965 Comrades Marathon in a record time of 5:51:09 for the Down-Run.
Now living in Washington DC, Bernard is out to visit South Africa and join in the 90th Comrades Marathon celebrations. The Bill Rowan Medal is so-named in commemoration of the winner of the first Comrades Marathon – Bill Rowan in a time of 8:59, which is also the slowest winning time in the history of the race. The honour of firing the 16h30 Cut-off Gun for the Bronze Medal, which is awarded to runners who finish under 11 hours, has been given to one of the respected Elders of the Comrades Marathon, Poobie Naidoo.
He is a former CMA Board Member who has completed 24 Comrades Marathon and has a best time of 6:07. The Final Cut-off Gun at 17:30 for the Vic Clapham Medal which is awarded to runners finishing under the 12 hour time limit will be fired by the Chairman of the Comrades Marathon Association, Macdonald Chitja. The Chairman will be running his 17th Comrades Marathon on the day and hopes to finish well in time to fulfil this duty.
The Vic Clapham Medal is named after the visionary founder of the Comrades Marathon in 1921.