Durban - Race organisers on Thursday said they were 100% ready for the 85th running of the Comrades Marathon on Sunday.
Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) chairman Dave Dixon said it may not be the biggest Comrades (there were 24 500 athletes in 2000) "but it will be the best".
The 'down' run, which begins outside Pietermaritzburg's Town Hall at 5.30am, will see over 18 200 athletes at the start. Although 23 522 entered the race, they did not all meet the required qualifying standard by the cut off date.
"This is an ideal number," said new race director Johan van Staaden.
"We can cope and give them all our full attention. The roads are wide enough for them and we are 100% ready to go.
"The average age of male entrants is 40 and females 42, which means they are a little bit older and more experienced than in previous years, and it bodes well for them to enjoy the race."
There will be 800 marshals on the road to guide the runners from start to finish. The organisers have added an extra 110m onto the route this year, changing the exit from Pietermaritzburg to facilitate an easier and faster flow of runners. An additional 100 community marshals will be on hand to ensure participants follow the correct exit route.
The weather will play a major role in the water consumption but the organisers are prepared, with 1.9-million sachets available. The 47 water tables along the route will also provide Energade, Coca-Cola and mahewu (a traditional drink made from fermented mealie meal).
A further 11 refreshment stations will provide bananas, cooked potatoes, chocolates, jelly babies, oranges and biscuits. These stations will be staffed by 4 000 volunteers, many of whom have been providing this service for more than a decade.
The expected temperature for Sunday is 22 degrees celsius, which is considered ideal for the 89.28km ultra-marathon.