Durban to PMB Comrades Marathon Up Run

Durban to PMB Comrades Marathon Up Run

The 2019 Comrades Marathon takes place in Durban this June! Are you prepared? If not, Woodford has created the ultimate Comrades Marathon guide.

This year the Comrades Marathon takes place on 9 June 2019 and it’s an Up Run!

Runners come from all over the world to take on this natural running track – the world’s largest ultra marathon.

The slogan for the 2019 Comrades is Sizonqoba, “Together we Triumph.” It is 12 hours of one of the toughest ultra marathons in the world, only equaled by the glory of crossing the finishing line. 

On race day you will see thousands take to the road with smiles on their faces running for their local club, country or charity. It’s a festive day for all South Africans who come out to support. And, rest assured, there are even more South Africans watching the race live on TV.


It’s All About Timing

Runners will start at Durban City Hall at 5h30 and run 87 km to reach the Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg by 17h30. The Up Run is shorter but it is definitely more of a challenge on the legs.


The Start Line

It is somewhat of a Comrades Tradition to hear a rousing chorus of the national anthem before the race. The start line is where you see the true spirit of SIzonqoba. Following the national anthem, entrants sing Shosholoza to a round of applause. Soon after, the theme from “Chariots of Fire ” can be heard stirring up the runners. When you hear the recording of Max Trimborn’s two cockerell crows, then you know the gun is about to go off, it’s off to the races!



But, wait; get yourself sorted at the Expo first! Running Thursday to Saturday before the big race.

There are Expo’s in both Durban and PMB. At the expo, runners can register their championchip and get any gear they need, as well as print new numbers for their race bib. Be advised, runners must own their own ChampionChip.

Another Comrades tradition (if you’re staying in a finishing city) is to ride the free bus to the start line with other runners. All the info you need to know about the bus times be at the Expo. So get there early before all the freebies run out!





Durban Exhibition Centre      

Comrades Marathon House

Walnut Road

18 Connaught Road








6 June 2019 10h00 - 19h00


7 June 2019 09h00 - 19h00


8 June 2019 09h00 - 17h00


Runners can also pack a bag for the finish line and hand it in at the expo. The bag can contain any personal items, fresh clothing, change of shoes etc. Runners can also find out about the return bus from the stadium to their hotels.

Once all the preparations at the Expo are seen to, it’s a good idea to relax the muscles. Comrades Runner, Bruce Fordyce, suggests rest before the big day with short runs to stretch the muscles.

Another great piece of Comrades advice is to carbo-load! If you’re staying in Durban, this city has some of the best pasta and pizza restaurants where you can get great quality food that happens to be just what the doctor ordered!

Many runners choose to stay in Durban to be closer to the larger hotels and tourist attractions such as Gateway Shopping Mall, Ushaka Marine World or The Golden Mile. There is ample parking at these locations and plenty of fun to be had by the whole family.


Gun to Gun

Now, back to the race. The event is run from ‘gun to gun.’  Meaning, if you don’t make it to the finish line before the final gun at 17h30 then you will not have completed the race. The drama and the agony of watching runners who are a few metres short is heartbreaking. 

It is a strict rule and runners need to mentally prepare for a tough day ahead to make the final gun. But, that’s what comrades is all about – soldiering on tirelessly, cheered by the crowd, becoming firm friends with fellow runnersto make it to the end.

Fellow runners play a large roll in encouraging each other. There are groups of runners, called busses, with spirited lead runners, called bus conductors. These bus conductors are seasoned comrades runners and welcome anyone to join their bus. Busses run to meet specific finishing times such as the 9 hour bus to finish within 9 hours and receive a coveted Bill Rowan Medal, named after the first man to win the Comrades Marathon Down Run in 1921 in just under 9 hours at 8h59m. 

The Comrades Marathon has earned its place on many bucket lists as a once in a lifetime experience. Some even enjoy it so much they come back for more!


The Green Number

Comrades runners who complete the race 10 times, or earn 5 gold medals or 3 wins earn their green running number. This is a huge honour and is commemorated with a plaque on the Comrades Wall of Honour, which can be seen along the route, near Drummond.


In fact, any runner who completes the race is given the opportunity to purchase a plaque for the wall. Drummond is near the halfway mark and many runners are spirits are lifted to see the Wall of Honour as they run by.

A fun fact about the Wall of Honour is that when runners see the memorial dedicated to five time winner, Arthur Newton, along the wall, it is a comrades tradition to say ‘Good Morning, Arthur’ as they run by.


The Route

The opportunity to run this famous route from Durban to Pietermartizburg offers breathtaking views over rolling hills and picturesque towns.

Every year the Comrades Marathon alternates its route, giving each city a chance to host the afternoon’s festivities at the finish line. Of course, it also gives runners a chance to test their skill on the Down Run vs the Up Run.

The Up Run is all about strategy. The climb starts immediately at the start line, running through Durban town and up the steep hills of Berea, over the Toll Gate Bridge.

Overcoming each major hill only sets up the course to tackle the next big hill, without much chance for respite or a down run to ease the muscles. This takes a toll on the legs, making each stride shorter and heavier.

It is important to mentally prepare and know the route. Many novice runners have described powering up Cowies Hill, expecting a bit of a break at the top, only to be confronted by Field’s Hill directly after.

Consider this - within the first 37km runners will have conquered three of the Big Five Hills of the event and still have 50km to go! Many runners have advised to set a slower pace at the start to conserve energy for the Big Five.


The Big Five Hills

Here they are, the Big Five Hills of the Comrades Marathon – Cowies Hill, Fields Hill, Botha’s Hill, Inchanga Pass and Polly Shorts.


Big 5 Hills

Point in the Route

Running Distance


Cowies Hill

At 15km



Fields Hill

At 22km



Botha’s Hill

At 35km



Inchanga Pass

At 45km



Polly Shorts

At 79km





It might only seem like a short running distance for each hill, but consider the height you are set to climb for each hill and the impact on your body.

Consider this - a normal day’s drive would take about 30min to get from Durban to Pietermartizburg.This would be a short drive on any other day! On Race day this turns into a challenging 12 hours.

But, the crowd is not deterred and neither should you be! Filled with quaint places to stop at such as the Midlands Meander or the Piggly Wiggly, the crowd surges on with the runners.


The Crowd

Thousands of locals come together for the Comrades Marathon. Local clubs and corporations set up refreshment tables along the route and hoards of residents come out to cheer the runners. Every cheer helps the runners to stay motivated, especially in those silent stretches on the road, between towns.

South Africans travel from all over the country to take part in the Comrades Marathon. As do international entrants from all over the world.

Flights to Durban are booked weeks in advance, as are rental vehicles. Families usually accompany their runners by driving along the route to prearranged meet up points, making sure their loved ones are doing okay.

The stadium is open to all during the day and is set up with amenities for the runners and the crowd.

The rolling hills and vast stretches of open veld are dotted with roaming animals and small roadside shops. This is the beauty of the road between these two cities.


The Finish Line

At the Finish Line, there is food and medical assistance in the recovery tents. Runners can unwind and meet their friends. They also get a front row seat to watch the others cross the line. 

25 000 entrants will have started the race and as each one makes their way to the finish line, the atmosphere in the stadium only gets livelier. Everyone is exuberant to celebrate.

Entry Information

Entries open on 19 October and close on 10 December, or until the cap of 25 000 entrants has been reached.

Entry Fee for locals is R600, Athletes from Africa is R1500 and Foreign Athletes not from Africa is R3800. Entry fees are waived for runners who have 25 or more Comrades medals.

Athletes must be 20 years or older on the day of the race. For South African residents, only club-registered runners may take partwearing the colours of their club.

All entrants must run a qualifying race between 26 August 2018 and 2 May 2019 in order to qualify to run the Comrades:




42.2 km 


48 - 50 km


52 - 54 km


56 km


60 km


64 km


68 km


80 km


90 km


100 km



The Long Weekend of It All

A tough, rewarding ultra marathon, the first of its kind to travel the distance from one city to the next, The Comrades Marathon takes place on 9 June 2019.  This year the event starts in Durban at the City Hall for runners to make their way steadily to Pietermartizburgand end at the Scottsville Racecourse.

But, don’t let the fun stop there. Make a long weekend of it and enjoy all the sights that Durban and PMB have to offer. Rent a car from Woodford and take a drive down the coast or into the Midlands. Make the most of your time on the sunny east coast and unwind from the one of the toughest ultra marathons in the world.


Book Now   
8 Mar 2019

View More Articles