R1m up for grabs for Comrades up-run record

24 May 2019 - 16:09
By Khanyiso Tshwaku
Comrades Marathon winner Bong'musa Mthembu crosses the finish line on June 10, 2018.
Image: THULI DLAMINI Comrades Marathon winner Bong'musa Mthembu crosses the finish line on June 10, 2018.

R1m awaits the Comrades Marathon winner who not only gets to Pietermaritzburg first on June 9‚ but also breaks the records in the respective races.

This is no easy feat as Leonid Shvetsov’s up-run record of 5.24.49 hasn’t been touched since 2008.

Elena Nurgalieva’s 2006 up-run record of 6:09:24 remains the gold standard in the women’s race.

The winners of the men’s and women’s races will both get R500‚000 but should they break those records‚ they’ll receive an extra R500‚000 for their efforts.

The records have safely remained in these Russian hands even though their dominance has been well and truly broken.

In the men’s section‚ it’s going to be tough ask because none of the 10 fastest up-run winning times have been run the last decade.

In fact‚ the fastest up-run time by a South African in the last 20 or so years is Nick Bester’s 5.30.48‚ which was only enough for him to finish second in 1996.

Even then‚ Bester wasn’t good enough to beat Russian Dmitri Grishine‚ who won in a time of 5.29.33‚ a time he bettered two years later with the then record of 5.26.25.

Three-time up-run winner Vladimir Kotov from Belarus‚ broke Grishine’s record with the first of his up-run wins with a time of 5.25.33.

That stood for eight years before Shvetsov’s legendary run eight years later that has yet to be broken.

The only South African top-five winning time was Bruce Fordyce’s 5.27.42 in the 1988 up-run.

None of the previous up-run winners in Bong’musa Mthembu (5.35.34 in 2017)‚ Gift Kelehe (5.38.36 in 2015)‚ Claude Moshiywa (5.32.09 in 2013) and Stephen Muzhingi (5.32.45 in 2011) have come close to finishing the race in five-and-a-half hours or less.

Nurgalieva’s time‚ though‚ has been tested‚ with Caroline Wostmann’s 6.12.22 in 2015 coming close‚ but there’s been nothing to write home about between 2008 and 2013 from an up-run perspective.

The down-run records are owned by South Africans David Gatebe (5.18.19 in 2016) and Frith van der Merwe (5.54.43 in 1989).

With an overall prize purse of R4.3m‚ the first South Africans to complete the race will receive R200‚000 each.