No clear men and women favourites for Sunday’s Comrades Marathon
The 95th running of the Comrades Marathon could well be the most open and unpredictable race in the history of the century-old KwaZulu/Natal ultra.
Not even the experts were willing to call the race, for both the men and women, because attempting to predict who will win on Sunday is tantamount to telling navy from black in the dark.
Granted there are clear contenders for the top ten positions, the usual suspects being previous winners and the perennial gold medallists.
But after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is just not easy to tell what shape the runners are in.
Of course, there are some who have shown to have maintained their shape as seen through their performances in the recent Nedbank Runified 50km race and the Two Oceans Marathon.
Yet, the discerning ultra-marathon enthusiast will know that the Comrades Marathon is a different beast, completely different to any other race.
And so, while the likes of 2019 champion Edward Mothibi and three-time winner Bongmusa Mthembu, as well as the women’s defending down run champion Ann Ashworth and 2017 winner American Camille Herron will toe the start line at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall as favourites, don’t bet all your money on them being first to reach the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Such is the depth of talent among this year’s elite that you just cannot rule out a novice victory.
Just as Mothibi won the up run at the first attempt, there are some newcomers who have made a case for themselves to be considered potential champions.
Mothibi’s teammate at Nedbank Running Club, Tete Dijana, is considered a serious dark horse given his splendid showing in Gqeberha where he showed the ultra-marathon specialists a clean pair of heels by finishing second behind world record-breaker Stephen Mokoka in the 50km.
His 2:44:09 time suggests the young man is endowed with incredible speed and after an intensive two-week long camp at the high altitude of Dullstroom in Mpumalanga, even Mothibi acknowledges that his teammate is in with a chance.
The Green Machine, as the Nedbank Club is affectionately referred to, have assembled a powerful contingent that should walk away with the team prize.
Alongside Mothibi and Tijana will be Joseph Manyedi who boasts a fifth-place finish from the 2019 race as well as novice Daniel Motshailwe Moselakwe who had a fantastic run in Gqeberha.
They also have former champions Claude Moshiywa and Ludwick Mamabolo who, despite being deep into their veteran years, can never be totally discounted for a top reckoning.
Entsika Athletic Club coach Willie Mtolo believes he too has a good team and spoke highly of Musawenkosi Mthalane who was ninth at Two Oceans and fourth at the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Ultra.
Hollywoodbets’ rising star Nkosikhona Mhlakwana is a top ten certainty if all goes well while the jury is out on the man who beat him into second place at Two Oceans, Ethiopian Edndale Belachew.
The Maxed Elite international runner will be making his Comrades debut and while he says he is ready to win after intensive training, the long distance could well prove a challenge for the man with the fastest marathon time (2:11) of the entire field.
In the women’s race, there is huge excitement around novice Adele Broodryk of Murray & Roberts.
And with good reason too given that she came very close to smashing the 50km Om Die Dam record when she won it in 3:23:48. She was sixth at Two Oceans in 3:47:23, proof that she has the speed.
But will she have the legs to withstand the longest distance she’s ever run and surprise all the experienced runners?
Add the likes of her veteran teammates Charne Bosman and Jenna Challenor as well as Fikile Mbuthuma of Nedbank to the mix and you have a recipe for a very competitive women’s race.
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