THIS IS NOT AN OFFICIAL COMRADES MARATHON ASSOCIATION ROUTE DESCRIPTION
This description of the Up Run route has been written as a help to those who have never run the Up Run and a reminder to those who have, and I have written it after many years of having run the Up Run myself and also having trained on the course of the Up Run over many years. I have tried to keep the distances as close as possible to official race distances but with ever-changing road conditions this is almost impossible but the distances I have shown are very close to the actual official distances and are certainly close enough to enable any reasonably trained runner to complete the race comfortably.
Comrades has confirmed that the Up Run Route for 2019 is unchanged from that of the last Up Run in 2017.
THE FIRST 25/26KM OF THE UP RUN MUST BE APPROACHED CAUTIOUSLY NO MATTER WHERE IN THE FIELD YOU ARE.
IT CLIMBS ALMOST THE ENTIRE WAY OUT OF DURBAN AND SOME OF IT IN THE DARK AND WITH THE EXCITEMENT AND ADRENALIN OF THE EVENT MANY RUNNERS DON’T NOTICE THE CLIMBING AND IT IS IN THE FIRST 25/26KM THAT YOU EITHER MAKE OR BREAK YOUR COMRADES ON THE UP RUN.
LOOK AFTER THAT SECTION OF THE RACE AND YOU WILL HAVE A GOOD DAY.
I mention “Controlled Walking” several times in this description and this is simply my term for managing your walking especially on a hill but the same applies anywhere you might be having to walk. There are a few ways to do this rather than aimlessly walking. Aimless walking wastes an enormous amount of time. Here are a few tips and I relate these to walking on a hill.
RUN 200 PACES AND THEN WALK 100 AND REPEAT TO THE TOP OF THE HILL OR TO THE END OF YOUR WALK.
NEVER LOOK AT THE TOP OF THE HILL
LOOK AT THE HEELS OF THE RUNNER IN FRONT OF YOU AND FOCUS ON THOSE RATHER THAN THE HILL OR THAT PART OF THE ROUTE YOU’RE RUNNING.
Counting paces may seem silly but it takes your mind completely off the job of climbing the hill because you are concentrating on your counting. Controlled walking is just part of the hard work of doing Comrades, but it will save you time.
THE ROUTE FROM DURBAN TO ‘MARITZBURG
START TO TOLLGATE (About 4kms)
Flat from the start in the city centre and then onto the “Western Bypass” (double road section) and then a climb to Tollgate.
It’s all well-lit in wide good roads. Everybody around you fired up with adrenalin and the excitement of finally getting to Comrades.
The race leaders and those who think they can win (the TV runners) start far too fast and as a result pull the entire field with them which often means everyone ends up starting too fast and you don’t notice the climb to Tollgate.
TOLLGATE TO 45TH CUTTING (ABOUT 3kms)
A slight dip after Tollgate but then the climb up to the top of 45th Cutting.
Still well-lit and still lots of banter and adrenalin and excitement and many haven’t noticed the climbs yet but some little strength sapping climbs if one is not careful.
45TH CUTTING TO WESTVILLE (ABOUT 7kms)
Another dip from the top of 45th Cutting but it doesn’t last too long before the long pull up the M13 to Westville
In poor lighting and mostly in the dark although the sun is slowly starting to get up. The pull up to the top of Westville is long and mostly in the dark and the banter is still on the go. For that reason it must be approached with caution.
WESTVILLE TO BOTTOM OF COWIES HILL (ABOUT 2kms)
When you reach the top of the climb to the Westville centre there’s some respite on a downhill and a stretch of flat to the bottom of Cowies Hill.
COWIES HILL (ABOUT 3kms)
Up and over Cowies Hill and it’s the first of the “BIG FIVE HILLS”. Nice views of Pinetown at the top but no time to stop to admire them.
You may need a bit of CONTROLLED WALKING to climb up Cowies Hill. Some of those who didn’t take care coming out of Durban will already be starting to feel it.
INTO PINETOWN (About 3kms)
After the hard work from the start to the top of Cowies Hill there’s the drop to the bottom of Cowies on the Pinetown side and what looks like the flat run to the centre of Pinetown but don’t be fooled. It’s still a gradual pull most of the way along what used to be called the Old Main Road (now Josiah Gumede Road) so just maintain your steady pace.
You continue the gentle uphill pull that you don’t really notice.
CENTRE OF PINETOWN TO THE TOP OF FIELDS HILL (ABOUT 4KMS)
This is one of the tough sections that takes you up the second of the “BIG FIVE HILLS” – Field’s Hill – and to the end of the punishing and damaging climb from the start. This is the part of the run where many of the people around you will have lost their time for the day due to foolish running in the first 25km of Comrades. They won’t be the first runners to do it and they certainly won’t be the last.
If you look after the 25km from the start to the top of Field’s Hill you will have a pretty good day. If you don’t do so you will probably be in for a very long, hard and painful day to Pietermaritzburg.
KLOOF TO HILLCREST (ABOUT 6KM)
You have just completed what is arguably the worst part of the Up Run and from here for the next 6 km things are a lot better. To Hillcrest whilst there are a few little bumps, if you took care of those first 25km from the start there is nothing too serious and it is nice recovery time.
A little pull up past the fire station at Gilletts but otherwise nothing. Controlled walking may be necessary – but as always it must be controlled walking.
HILLCREST TO THE TOP OF BOTHA’S HILL (ABOUT 4KMS)
After Hillcrest a drop out down to the bottom of Botha’s Hill and your legs are probably starting to feel a little tired and you get to another of the “BIG FIVE HILLS” – Botha’s Hill. Botha’s Hill is steep and it’s fairly long. You are probably going to need to do so, so controlled walking is completely in order but stopping to admire the scenery is strictly prohibited. Down the other side and into Botha’s Hill village.
Botha’s Hill is the third of the BIG FIVE HILLS in Comrades but if it’s handled correctly it is no major threat. Near the top look out for the boys from Kearsney College who are out cheering you on your way.
TOP OF BOTHA’S HILL TO DRUMMOND (ABOUT 8KMS)
This stretch is mainly easy running and suddenly to have reached halfway and because you looked after the first 25km out of Durban and controlled your walking you find you have reached Drummond in a comfortable time.
Hope you didn’t forget to greet Arthur Newton at Arthur’s Seat about 1 km before Drummond on the left hand side of the road. The greeting is “Morning Arthur” and if you can, you place a flower in the seat and don’t forget to doff your hat. Legend has it that Arthur will then look after you to the finish.
Forgetting to greet Arthur.
DRUMMOND TO THE TOP OF INCHANGA (ABOUT 1.5KM)
So now comes Inchanga – the 4th of the BIG FIVE hills. You will probably have to do some walking. Aimless walking will without any doubt cost you time that will be added on at the finish but controlled walking whilst it might feel tough when you’re doing it, will save you time, about that there is no debate.
One thing that is strictly prohibited in terms of the “International Valley of 1000 Hills Gazers” code is staring at the views whilst taking part in Comrades under the pretext of needing a nature break.
Controlled walking, and if you do that, there are then no dangers.
TOP OF INCHANGA TO INCHANGA CARAVAN PARK (ABOUT 6.5KM)
First it’s the gentle trot down Inchanga then the little climb which isn’t too serious to the Enthembeni School where lots of the kids will be out at the side of the road cheering you on. After the school another little climb to the caravan park.
INCHANGA CARAVAN PARK TO CATO RIDGE (ABOUT 9KM)
The first thing that hits you after you leave the caravan park is a really nasty little climb that has no name. It’s a little over 1 km long and takes you to the Nagel Dam turnoff and the start of Harrison Flats. Harrison Flats is exactly that – flat all the way to Cato Ridge.
None if you’re careful on the climb from the caravan park
CATO RIDGE TO CAMPERDOWN (ABOUT 4.3KM)
One of the things that has always been an inspiration to the Comrades runner is knowing that when he or she gets to the area around Cato Ridge and Camperdown that it won’t be too long before they’re on the home run to Pietermaritzburg. This section is pretty flat with a couple of little “bumps” of no major concern.
Your legs have done their job so forget about them now and because they’ve brought you this far they will certainly get you home. Time now for your mental preparation to kick in to get you home.
None other than aimless walking.
CAMPERDOWN TO UMLAAS ROAD (ABOUT 4KM)
A nasty hill with no name out of Camperdown as you make your way towards Umlaas Road which is the highest point between Durban and Pietermaritzburg but as you have learnt about controlled walking this poses no threat.
When you get to Umlaas Road, if it’s not too hazy, you can see Pietermaritzburg in the distance for the first time
UMLAAS ROAD TO THE BOTTOM OF POLLY’S (ABOUT 9KMS)
The only thing of any concern on this stretch is “Little Polly’s” which lies about 11km or so from home. It isn’t particularly steep but it comes at the wrong time.
It comes when legs are a little sore and runners are a little tired and it’s unfortunately one of those hills that has to be climbed because it’s there.
Most of the further back in the field runners will walk Little Polly’s aimlessly and by doing that could lose between 10 and 15 minutes and that’s before they reach Polly’s itself. That 10 to 15 minutes could well mean the difference in the medal you get at the end,
It’s now that controlled walking, as painful as it might be is so important.
POLLY SHORTTS (ABOUT 1.7KM)
Much has been written about Polly Shortts – the last of the BIG FIVE hills and much has been spoken about Polly’s. Horror stories have been told about Polly’s.
At the end of the day it’s only a hill on the old road between Durban and Pietermaritzburg and once every two years runners in the Comrades Marathon need to make their way up that hill. Some runners go up faster than others but it’s just a hill.
Sort out your strategy for the way you are going to tackle Polly’s before race day and it’s not going to be a big deal. It really isn’t.
If you need to walk – and you probably will – count your 200 paces of running then 100 paces of walking and repeat this to the top of Polly’s and you’ll be there in no time.
None if you have planned the walking and stick to the plan. You are probably going to have to do some walking. Don’t panic because most runners will walk part of Polly’s.
TOP OF POLLY’S TO SCOTTSVILLE RACE COURSE (ABOUT 7.5KM)
This was the section of the course introduced in 2017 and is mainly through the suburbs and is undulating until you reach the finish at Scottsville Race Course. Because it’s mainly through the suburbs there’s a fair amount of crowd support to help you home.
You’re virtually home so there aren’t any! And this is an example of what awaits you when you reach the finish.