This Sunday (29 May) will see up to 20,000 runners tackle the oldest ultra on the world, the Comrades Marathon. One of those taking part will be Orkney-based athlete William Sichel, who, despite boasting a racing CV that spans the world, will be competing in the South African event for the first time.
Regarded as one of the toughest ultras in the world, the race this year will be run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban (the start points alternate annually), covering around 56 miles. The field can expect hot temperatures – forecast predicts 27°C and upwards – plus some testing inclines, notably five major hills, popularly known as the 'Big Five.’
On competing in the event, Sichel said: “I’ve been warned about the severity of the course as whichever direction it is run, the route is very,very hilly. It’s just that the ‘down’ run has a very long section of about 15 miles downhill at the end which tends to destroy already tired legs after a huge amount of uphill.
“I’ve always wanted to have a go at this one as it’s the last of the ‘classic’ road ultras for me to complete. It will also be somewhat different from my current, favourate multiday events which have a maximum of a few dozen runners involved. It should be an amazing experience!”
2015 saw two South African runners win on home soil as the event celebrated its 90th edition. Gift Kelehe was top in the men’s field in 5:38:35, while Caroline Wostmann secured a comfortable victory in the women’s competition with a finishing time of 6:12:22.