Runners in safe hands for 2023 Comrades Marathon

athletics06 June 2023 06:38| © SuperSport

Healthcare support preparations for the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon, the Comrades Marathon, are at an advanced stage. Doctors, paramedics, nurses and volunteers from various organisations, including the Netcare Group, are teaming up as part of the coordinated medical management efforts behind the scenes of this international sports event.

“Netcare has been a medical partner to the Comrades Marathon for the past 22 years, and this celebrated race requires a medical team from all over South Africa to provide for the wide-ranging medical needs of the thousands of runners putting their fitness and endurance to the test,” says Mande Toubkin, Netcare’s general manager emergency, trauma, transplant and corporate social investment.

“We consider it an honour to be providing 156 healthcare workers and 35 emergency vehicles, including helicopter emergency medical services, for this 96th edition of the race,” adds Shalen Ramduth, operations director of Netcare 911.

This year’s Ultimate Human Race is the second consecutive ‘down run’ from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall to Hollywoodbets Kingsmead Stadium in eThekwini. On Sunday, 11 June, Netcare 911 will provide medical assistance to runners at strategic positions along the race route and at the particularly gruelling final stretch up to the finish line.

For the past 43 years Comrades Marathon Association race doctor, Dr Jeremy Boulter, has been in charge of coordinating the CMA’s extensive provisions for the medical, emergency, first aid and physiotherapy needs of runners.

“We start working a year in advance for the next year’s race. This year, there are 17 920 entries and the sheer scale of the event requires careful logistics, planning and teamwork of the Comrades Marathon Medical Facility, which has been described as the largest temporary medical facility outside of a conflict zone anywhere in the world.”

The Comrades Finish Medical Facility has been a feature of the Comrades Marathon since 1977 and today also includes a Netcare pre-hospital intensive care unit.

“This year the medical team will comprise 10 emergency medicine specialists, 25 emergency medicine registrars from the University of the Witwatersrand and UKZN Medical faculties, doctors from the private sector, about 75 Netcare and other nurses, and roughly 25 general assistants. We will also have a mini-laboratory to enable us to perform essential blood tests, provided by Ampath laboratories, as well as Netcare 911 emergency medical practitioners, physiotherapists and volunteers,” Dr Boulter says.

Together Netcare 911, Netcare, and the Comrades medical team are fully prepared to assist participants in every eventuality, whether it is a life-threatening emergency or simply a strained muscle.


· 63 nurses from Netcare

· 32 ambulance staff

· 8 advanced life support rapid response vehicle paramedics

· 11 joint operations centre staff

· 8 stadium paramedics

• 8 support staff

· 4 motorcycles with EMS practitioners

· 3 members of the helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS)

· 2 advanced life support practitioners at the finish line

· 2 IT staff

“These resources are specifically dedicated to the event, and Netcare 911’s regular emergency medical services remain available for any other requests for assistance from the public via 082 911, as always,” Ramduth adds.

“Runners can rely on the teamwork, expertise and solid Comrades spirit of the healthcare team working behind the scenes. On behalf of the Netcare Group, we wish all participants a safe and solid run, and encourage them to keep hydrated at the refreshment stands along the route,” Toubkin concludes.