Defending champ Mthembu the first SA runner in 30 years to win back-to-back Comrades marathon titles


Durban, June 10 (ANA) – Defending men’s champion Bongmusa Mthembu became the first South African since 1988 to win the back-to-back Comrades marathon titles after he won the Pietermaritzburg to Durban race on Sunday.

Mthembu, from Bulwer in KwaZulu Natal, took the line hours in 5 hours 26 minutes 33 seconds to register his third win in the ultra marathon event, having taken the top spot for the first time in 2014.

The last time a South African male athlete was able to record back-to-back wins was Bruce Fordyce in 1987 and 1988, although, in the women’s event, Frith van der Merwe managed to achieve this in 1988 and 1989.

After the race, Mthembu said: “It was a very emotional feeling crossing the finish line and I lay flat on the floor thinking about all the sacrifices and effort that I put in.

“I took in quite a bit of water throughout the race. I spent part of my build up training outside of the country and I am just glad that it all paid off.”

The race was still wide open until about 18km to go near Cowie’s Hill before Mthembu made his move and manage to stride away from fellow South Africans Edward Mothibi, David Gatebe and Gift Kelehe.

The strain of Mthembu’s breakaway and the 90km route took its toll on the chasing contingent with Joseph Mphuthi managing to get the second spot in 5:35.09. The podium was completed by British athlete Steven Way who finished in 5:35.27.

Mothibi had to settle for the fourth spot in 5:36.32 with Gatebe (the down-run record-holder) dropping to eight in 5:42.43. Kelehe ended ninth in 5:46.50.

Mthembu will pocket R440 000 for his winning feat.

Ann Ashworth upsets the odds and a star-field to win the Comrades Marathon women’s race, from Pietermaritzburg to Durban on Sunday.

The Johannesburg-based advocate crossed the finish line in 6 hours 10 minutes 04 seconds to register her first top 10 finish in the event that is dubbed, ‘the Ultra of Ultra’s’ in terms of physical and mental road running endurance.

“It is an awesome feeling to win the Comrades Marathon title,” said Ashworth afterwards. “The race lead was changing quite a bit early on but I am glad that I got the break at the right time and am just so pleased to have won it. It means all the training and effort has paid off.”

Ashworth has also been hard at work as a founder member of Massmart Athletics Club, encouraging women to participate in road running.

“If I can get young girls to take part in this great sport then that is a major achievement for me,” said the excited Comrades champion.

Gerda Steyn was next best in 6:15.34 followed by Russian Alexandra Morozova, who seemed set to mount a strong challenge earlier in the race before Ashworth was able to break away.

2012 Olympian Tanith Maxwell and Charne Bosman who were also among the pre-race favourites for the women’s title, had to settle for fourth and fifth positions respectively.