By Alice Morrison
It is one of the most popular races on the calendar and one for many people’s bucket list and this Sunday’s Comrades in South Africa was no exception. This year’s edition was 86.73 km in one stage and around 20,000 runners took part. The route started from Durban City Hall and ended in Pietermaritzburg.
It is a race with a true heart. It was founded to commemorate the spirit and camaraderie of the soldiers who fought in the Great War. Its founder Vic Clapham (war veteran & SA Railways engine driver) wanted to create a living memorial to the spirit of his “comrades” who suffered so greatly in the war.
For the elites, Bongmusa Mthembu cemented his place as South Africa’s top ultra-distance runner, delivering a historic performance and securing his second win at the Comrades Marathon.
It wasn’t his race from the start, though, as it was Charles Tjiane who took early control and was two minutes clear at the halfway point at Drummond in 2:47:29. But he was caught by the pack of six men with 22km to go.
Mthembu took the lead approaching the infamous Polly Shortts climb with less than 10km remaining. He held on to secure victory in 5:35:34, more than three minutes ahead of Zimbabwean athlete, Hatiwande Nyamande, who took second place in 5:38:48. Gift Kelehe finished third in 5:41:48.
Mthembu, who won silver at the 100km World Championships last year, is the first South African man to win Comrades twice.
For the women, American athlete Camille Herron dominated the women’s event, winning in 6:27:35. There was a hairy moment when she stopped before the line, thinking she had reached the finish at a timing mat 200m short of the end. A male athlete behind her put her right and she went on to finish correctly.
Russian athlete Alexandra Morozova pushed hard in the second half to come second in 6:31:45. While the Russian athletics federation had been banned from the International Association of Athletics Federations, preventing athletes from competing at major international championships, race organisers confirmed Morozova had received clearance to compete at the race in advance.
Charne Bosman was first South African woman home and came in third in spite of struggling with a groin injury.