First-time winners shake up Comrades Marathon

2 June 2014

South African Bongmusa Mthembu claimed his first Comrades Marathon victory on Sunday, winning the 89.28-kilometre “down run” from Pietermaritzburg to Durban in five hours, 28 minutes and 34 seconds.

Mthembu had previously won three gold medals. This time, however, he was a convincing victor. After taking the lead at Cowies Hill, about 17 kilometres from the end, he finished more than four minutes ahead of Ludwick Mamabolo, the winner of the previous “down run” in 2012.

Top five

Gift Kelehe, the brother of 2001 champion Andrew Kelehe, made it a South Africa 1- 2-3, with Zimbabwe’s Stephen Muzhingi, the three-time winner from 2009 to 2011, taking fourth place. Rufus Photo claimed fifth to give South Africa four of the top five finishers.

Mncedisi Mkhize, Jonas Buud, Manoko Mokwalakwala, Prodigal Khumalo and Latudi Makofane completed the top 10, with Sweden’s Buud being the only runner outside of South Africa and Zimbabwe to make it into the top 10.

Mthembu, who is coached by former New York Marathon winner Willie Mtolo, took home R350 000 for his victory.

‘A great feeling’

At a post-race press conference, he said: “It’s a great feeling to win Comrades. I’ve worked hard to get here all these years and I always knew my time will come.

“It’s been a process of five to six years. I was patient in that time and I’m really happy to have finally done it.”

An end to Eastern European dominance

There was an end to the 11-year Eastern European hold on the women’s title when British-born Canadian runner Eleanor Greenwood, aided by some difficulties experienced by eight-time winner Elena Nurgalieva, staged a fantastic late-race surge to claim victory.

Greenwood was eight minutes off the lead with 18 kilometres to go. Afterwards, she admitted, she did not think she had a chance to win at that stage. However, the support of the huge crowds made her think that maybe she had a chance to catch the front-runners.

‘Wow, I’m catching’

Afterwards, Greenwood said: “Then I thought ‘wow, I’m catching’. But even so, I still thought how far ahead they were.

“It was only until four or five kilometres to go that I saw the timing clock car ahead of me and I realised they were right there. And once I passed them I felt far more comfortable.”

By the end of the race, Greenwood had won by a remarkable five minutes and four seconds over Nurgalieva, breaking the finishing tape in six hours, 18 minutes and 14 seconds.

Podium places

Nurgalieva held onto second place, clocking 6:23:18, with her sister, Olesya, a two- time Comrades Marathon champion, in third place.

Russia’s Irina Antropova and Britain’s Jo Meek completed the top five, while Caroline Wostmann, in sixth place, was the leading South African runner.

48-year-old Zola Budd Pieterse, who was running for Pierre Korkie, held hostage in Yemen for over a year, came home in seventh place.

Sweden’s Frida Sodermark, Martinique Potgieter and Julanie Basson rounded out the top 10 female finishers.

TOP 10 FINISHERS

MEN

  1. Bongmusa Mthembu (SA) 5:28:34
  2. Ludwick Mamabolo (SA) 5:33:14
  3. Gift Kelehe (SA) 5:34:39
  4. Stephen Muzhingi (Zim) 5:35:18
  5. Rufus Photo (SA) 5:35:30
  6. Mncedisi Mkhize (SA) 5:36:06
  7. Jonas Buud (Swe) 5:38:17
  8. Manoko Mokwalakwala (SA) 5:39:29
  9. Prodigal Khumalo (Zim) 5:39:36
  10. Latudi Makofane (SA) 5:40:41

WOMEN

  1. Eleanor Greenwood (GBR) 6:18:15
  2. Elena Nurgalieva (Rus) 6:23:18
  3. Olesya Nurgalieva (Rus) 6:24:51
  4. Irina Antropova (Rus) 6:34:08
  5. Jo Meek (GBR) 6:47:02
  6. Caroline Wostmann (SA) 6:51:43
  7. Zola Budd Pieterse (SA) 6:55:55
  8. Frida Sodermark (Swe) 6:57:33
  9. Martinique Potgieter (SA) 7:00:46
  10. Julanie Basson (SA) 7:02:50