Greenwood makes up for that second she lost in 2012

2014-06-02 00:00

IN years to come, a favoured sport question will be: “Who broke the Russian twins’ dominance in the Comrades Marathon and when?”

The answer was provided yesterday, in Berea Road, when Scottish athlete Eleanor Greenwood closed one of the race’s most predictable chapters, grabbing the headlines for herself and rightly so. She powered into Durban, a sight to behold and applaud as she claimed the women’s race, leaving the Nurgalieva twins shell-shocked and grimacing in her wake.

She finished looking as though she could turn around and run back to Pietermaritzburg, but Greenwood — who missed last year’s up run due to injury — said she had a terrible race early on, her legs taking a while to warm up and get going. “It happens in running, but I thought, ‘No, it cannot happen on Comrades day’,” she said. “With all the running and training I had done in Canada, I hadn’t come all this way to give up. I got to the 50 km mark before I felt more comfortable and able to get into the race.”

With the Nurgalievas out of sight in front, Greenwood settled comfortably into third place, where she thought she would eventually finish. She had no intention or ambition of catching the Russian sisters. “I never thought I would catch them and the information I was receiving from the road told me they were too far up. I just had to keep going and took hope that being a strong finisher I would make up some ground,” she said.

That all changed in the last 10 km of the race. “Suddenly, I was told I was getting close as the Russian twins were faltering and walking, losing valuable time.

“Enjoying downhill running, I kept going and when I saw the lead car with five or six kilometres to go, I never realised how close I was and how the twins had fallen back,” said Greenwood.

Having come second by just over a minute in 2012 to Elena Nurgalieva, Greenwood said she was “tormented” by that and wanted to put it right.

“I knew the twins always preferred to go out fast and that does not work for me. I had to let them go as I stuck to my gameplan. I was aware all along where they were and how they were doing, hence my surprise when I suddenly caught them so close to the finish.”

Living in Canada for the past 12 years, Greenwood said she had her family watching back home, in the early hours of the morning, plus more than a hundred friends rooting for her. “It was extremely emotional when I realised I had taken the lead and was heading for the win. The thought of the support I had and what I was about to accomplish overwhelmed me,” she said.

“This is definitely the highlight of my career. I love ultra-marathons and would rather concentrate on that instead of working on improving my marathon time. Comrades — the atmosphere, being the oldest ultra in the world — is huge. It’s the big one and I tell people in Canada if they do one road race, it must be the Comrades. If they want to do one ultra run, it must be the Comrades.”

Speaking on Zola Budd Pieterse’s gold medal and seventh overall, Greenwood said, “At her age, what she has done is amazing. She is a legend and stories and achievements like hers make the Comrades what it is.”

After claiming the title, Greenwood said she would be back next year to add the up run to her CV. As for the Nurgalievas, Jeremy Boulter, head of the medical facilitiesday, said they were okay and out the danger zone. “Olesya was okay, but Elena did not respond to treatment and was sent to St Augustine’s Hospital where tests were done. I was informed all was okay and can only put her condition down to a possible underlying infection which probably caught up with her on the day,” he said.

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