BEHIND THE SCENES: A NOTE FROM THE DESK OF THE RACE & OPERATIONS MANAGER, ANN ASHWORTH
If I had to describe the month of January in one or two words it would be “ramp up”: an increase in amount, intensity, extent etc., especially a steady increase; growth or build up (often used attributively).
The CMA office opened on 8 January 2024 to a flurry of phone calls and enquiries regarding late registrations and athlete’s seeking assistance in finalising their application for the Runner’s Relief Fund, an initiative launched by the CMA Board in 2023 to assist less fortunate athletes through the partial subsidisation of their race entry fees.
Onicka Scheepers, CMA’s newly appointed Administration Officer, has hit the ground running, making every effort to ensure that each of the 22,500 entrants to this year’s race have access to the information they need to complete their entries and secure their registration for the event.
During our first three weeks, CMA staff have begun planning for this year’s race in earnest. We have already undertaken several route recce’s overseen by Braam Zaayman and Ravin Sivraman, the ROC (Race Organising Committee) members in charge of the Route Portfolio and are actively engaging with each of the construction companies responsible for roadworks along the Comrades route.
We have met with members of Metro Police within each municipality through which runner’s will pass on race day, together with officials from the Road Traffic Inspectorate, to confirm that they are happy with our proposed route which includes a new route to the finish at the Hollywood Bets Scottsville Racecourse.
Tonya Swiegers, the ROC member heading up our Finish Venue Portfolio, CMA Procurement and Estate Officer, Alain Dalais and I have spent several hours mapping out the finish line on the Racecourse infield and are actively engaging with our sponsors, partners and suppliers to ensure we have the best finish venue layout seen at the race in many years.
No doubt this year’s race is going to see more hype, more glitz, more glamour and a lot more gees than ever before as we start to roll out and test our plans in the build up to the 100th running of the race in June 2027.
Outside of our on-the-ground race planning, Delaine Cools, the CMA Marketing & Communications Manager, and I attended the annual CMA Board Strategic Getaway hosted at Drakensburg Sun at the end of January. Delaine presented the CMA’s marketing plan for 2024 while I took Board members through our 2024 race plans.
In addition, we were able to discuss and debate fundamental issues affecting the future of the CMA including the need for succession planning and what we ultimately want to CMA to achieve ahead of the 100th Comrades Marathon.
Issues such as the need to attract greater international competition, a potential increase in prize money, ways in which we can improve the experience of our female athletes and how best to attract a younger field were all discussed in detail by the Board, as well as the introduction of policies and measures aimed toward a cleaner, greener and more renewable race.
Heading into February my diary is already filled with one-on-one meetings with different suppliers and contractors to the CMA to ensure we get everything we need to host a successful event. ROC meetings kick off this month as each portfolio (from Registration to Prizegiving) begin their planning for 9 June.
Right now, life feels a little bit as though we are slowly climbing to the top of the rollercoaster and the ride is about to start. The good news is that we’re strapped in and ready for the rush that lies ahead!