A ritual on the Comrades Marathon

  • CJ Van Vuuren
Keywords: Comrades, Distance running, Ritual, Passage, Liminality, Heroes, Cyclical.


The Comrades Marathon is a dominating event on the annual sport calendar in South Africa. The race challenges its participants in terms of a combination of constraints, such as the spatial, physical, temporal and the psychological. An auto-ethnographical research methodology is applied in combination with literature on ritual and sports, such as distance running, karate, the Olympic Games and triathlon. It is argued that the historical Comrades event is rife with elements of a ritual nature and ritual engagement. Throughout the race, participants in the world's greatest ultra-distance race experience notions of isolation and liminality, emotional and psychological instability, inscription and mental growth, a sense of profound camaraderie, symbolic awareness and the euphoria of the final reward. It is argued that these notions are typical of ritual action and that the Comrades race acts as a vehicle for such ritual transformations.

Key words: Comrades; Distance running; Ritual; Passage; Liminality; Heroes; Cyclical.


Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 0379-9069