17 June 2008
After setting a “down run” record in 2007, Russia’s Leonid Shvetsov added the “up run” record in Sunday’s Comrades Marathon, and became the first man since the legendary Bruce Fordyce to win back-to-back titles.
He clocked 5:24.48 for the Durban to Pietermaritzburg route to better the record of 5:25.33 set by Vladimir Kotov in 2000.
A medical doctor, Shvetsov stopped practising so he could concentrate full-time on his racing and it paid off on Sunday as he banked R470 000 for winning the Comrades and breaking the record.
It was a dominating victory; his winning time was 13 minutes and 55 seconds ahead of second-placed Jaroslav Janicki, the 1999 champion. Zimbabwe’s Stephen Muzhingi finished over a minute behind the Pole to claim third spot.
Oleg Kharitonov, the 2006 champion, finished in fourth, followed by Grigory Murzin in fifth, which gave Russia three of the top five finishers.
It also marked the first time that the top five failed to feature a South African.
South Africa’s top finisher was Harmans Mokgadi, who took sixth place in 5:47.09. He was followed just over a minute later by Mncedisi Mkhize.
Former three-time up run winner Vladimir Kotov ended in eighth place, a remarkable performance for a man who is 50 years of age.
Johan Oosthuizen took ninth, while sentimental South African favourite and KwaZulu-Natal local Willie Mtolo picked up the final gold medal by ending in tenth position.
The women’s race was won by Russian Elena Nurgalieva, who claimed her third up run victory.
Her triumph didn’t come without adversity; Nurgalieva suffered a fall just 10 kilometres into the race, tripping over a cat’s eye in the road, which scraped up her left knee, leading to some very visible bleeding.
Her time was 6:14:36, over five minutes slower than the up run record she set two years ago but, said Nurgalieva, she ran to win, not to break the record.
Her twin sister Olesya took second place, almost a minute-and-a-half further back, with Tatyana Zhirkova taking the final podium position.
With Marina Myshlyanova ending fourth and Marina Bychkova fifth, Russians secured a 1-2-3-4-5 finish.
Top South African
It meant that, as had happened in the men’s race, there was no South African in the top five. Riana van Niekerk, in sixth, led the Rainbow Nation’s runners, finishing two places ahead of Farwa Mentoor, who had been South Africa’s best performer in the Comrades for six years in succession.
Maria Bak closely mirrored Vladimir Kotov’s performance in the men’s race. The 49-year-old German finished in a strong seventh-place.
Lesley Train and Carol Mercer completed the top 10.
Most Comrades finishes
A remarkable record went the way of Dave Rogers, who recorded his 43rd finish in the Comrades Marathon. By finishing in just over 11 hours, he beat over a third of the field.
Rogers, who first ran the race in 1961, was met at the finishing line by Clive Crawley, with whom he had shared the previous record for the most completed Comrades Marathons.
His record includes winning three gold medals, with a best ever finish of third in 1976.
As if the race was not tough enough for the over 11 000 runners, a warm day made it even tougher, but it also meant that the route was flooded with the type of vociferous and enthusiastic support that has become synonymous with the Comrades Marathon.
In a heart-warming recognition of the Comrades Marathon’s roots, the Reveille was played and the national flag lowered after the 12-hour cutoff as a tribute to those fallen comrades from the First World War after whom the world famous race was named.
- Leonid Shvetsov 5:24.46
- Jaroslaw Janicki 5:38.28
- Stephen Muzhingi 5:39.39
- Oleg Kharitonov 5:42.02
- Grigory Murzin 5:43.06
- Harmans Mogkadi 5:47.09
- Mncedisi Mkhize 5:48.17
- Vladimir Kotov 5:48.41
- Johan Oosthuizen 5:50.52
- Willie Mtolo 5:53.35
- Elena Nurgalieva 6:14.36
- Olesya Nurgalieva 6:15.51
- Tatyana Zhirkova 6:17.44
- Marina Myshlyanova 6:30.48
- Marina Bychkova 6:38.00
- Riana Van Niekerk 6:43.30
- Maria Bak 6:53.31
- Farwa Mentoor 6:59.39
- Lesley Train 7:02.08
- Carol Mercer 7:09.36
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