In a few weeks’ time I will be lining up in Durban, along with 25,000 other mad people, to run about 87km to Pietermaritzburg. Why am I doing it, you may ask? The simple answer is that watching the Comrades Marathon on TV every year was a formative experience for me. Like many South Africans, I grew up listening to the names of places along the route in faraway KwaZulu-Natal being uttered with a certain awe and reverence. Inchanga, Drummond, Polly Shorts, Umlaas Road, Camperdown, Cowies Hill. They were associated with bravery and camaraderie, with blisters and sweat and cramp and triumph. From a young age, I knew: one day I will run this race. In retrospect I realise that, for a white boy in the 1980s, the Comrades offered a glimpse of a different SA — where compatriots of different races shared the road as equals. It would be trite to say that, for a single day each year, there was some respite from apartheid. The laws of the country didn’t change; racism and structural inequality ...

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