Ugandans join 20,000+ others on a 90km date!


What you need to know:

Of the 25 Team Uganda representatives to the Comrades Marathon in South Africa, 15 are first time participants. The team also has three ladies including Doreen Lwanga, Bonita Mulelengi and Janet Nakkazi, with the latter going for her third Comrades. 

DURBAN. On May 24, some 103 years ago, 48 runners entered the inaugural Comrades Marathon in Durban, South Africa. 

However, only 34 of them started this approximately 90km gruelling race - fondly called The Ultimate Human Race!

Of the aforementioned, only 16 completed the race, with Sir Bill Rowan winning the very first edition in eight hours and 59 minutes - some 41 minutes ahead of runner-up Harry Phillips.

Then, the Comrades - conceptualised by World War I veteran Vic Clapham, was majorly a white event.

Fast forward to date, the world's oldest ultra run is an iconic global calendar event attracting all nationalities, backgrounds, races and genders. 

More than a century later, over 300,000 people have completed the race, including Ugandans.

And from only 48 people entering the inaugural edition, the Comrades is now capped at 25,000 participants.

From handful to tens of Ugandans

From less than a handful in some previous editions, and at least 12 from Team Uganda last year under Team Matooke, the Pearl of Africa will this Sunday be represented by about 30 runners. 

These will join over 20,000 others on a gruelling 86km run from Durban, South Africa up to Pietermaritzburg in what the brain behind the Comrades Marathon, Clapham, exactly intended. 

On top of commemorating South African soldiers killed during the World War, Clapham wanted the memorial to be a unique test of the physical endurance of humans. 

He also wanted it to be a celebration of “mankind's spirit over adversity."

The writer on the right. 

And that is what representatives of Uganda and tens of thousands others will be looking forward to when they stand in their respective starting lanes near the Durban City Hall on Sunday morning. 

This race will be broadcast live on SuperSport Variety Channel 229 starting at 6.30am, all day on Sunday. 

Of the known 25 Team Uganda representatives, 15 - including this writer - are going for their first Comrades Marathon.

The team also has three ladies. They include Doreen Lwanga, Bonita Mulelengi and Janet Nakkazi. The latter is going for her third in-person Comrades edition. 

Don't rush the Comrades 

Charles Mugambe, who is going for his second in-person Comrades, had a word of wisdom for the debutants. 

“Everyone can run the Comrades, and what matters is finishing,” he said at the send off party in Kampala before the team departed for South Africa.

“But for you to run it and finish,” he added, “you must not rush it. Run your own race, at your own pace, and you will finish it.

“Also, walking is allowed. And one of our coaches told us that you don't walk because you are tired, you walk because you will need that energy for the next demanding section.”

This year's edition is an UP RUN from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, whose elevation goes as high as 870 metres. Actually, the first 36km are all a steady, demanding climb. Last year was a DOWN RUN.

Andu Debebe, an American diplomat who runs under Team Uganda, is going for his fifth Comrades.

“Of my four Comrades, one was an UP RUN,” Debebe narrated, “and from my experience, I enjoyed the UP RUN more. 

“So I want to encourage all novices and those that have not done the UP RUN before that it is doable. As long as you can breathe well, keep your good pace, you will do it.”

Do it all in 12 hours

For context, the 86km that Ugandans and other Comrades runners will cover is equivalent to running from Sheraton Kampala to Entebbe Airport, and back.

For you to get a finishers medal, you must complete the 86km in under 12 hours.

There are several medal categories, with gold medalists usually finishing the race in under six hours and earning some good millions of rands. 

In between are several other medals for finishers in six, seven, eight, nine, 10 and 11 hours. 

You run what you qualified and trained for, and Comrades seeds participants according to their qualification time. 

To qualify for the Comrades, you must complete a recognised marathon (42km) in four hours, 49 minutes and 59 seconds. 

Team Uganda to the 2024 Comrades Marathon

  • Janet Nakkazi

  • Doreen Lwanga

  • Bonita Mulelengi

  • Gadafi Ssali

  • Moses Rutahigwa

  • Andrew Mwanguhya

  • Robert Kabushenga

  • Daniel Ligyalingi

  • Amos Nuwagaba

  • Stephen Mugabe Magunda

  • Godfrey Kamya

  • Andu Debebe

  • Girum Fisseha

  • Charles Mugambe

  • Martin Abila

  • Luke Francis Kiwanuka

  • Collins Cherotich

  • Alex Matovu

  • Don Akatukunda

  • John Stephen Ilungole

  • Albert Marvin Onyia

  • Paul Ankwasa

  • Noel Thomas Kalunda

  • Andrew Muwanga

  • Nathanael Kasozi