KZN runners put on a good show at the Comrades

2011-05-30 00:00

IT was a good day for South African athletes at the Comrades Marathon, with seven of the top 10 men being homegrown talents, and with four of the top women being local.

KwaZulu-Natal had a runner in each of the men’s and women’s top 10, with Kerry Koen of Howick ninth in the women’s race.

Defending champion, Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi, who runs for the Durban Bluff Meats club, made it three in a row after winning yesterday.

Mncedisi Mkhize was the first KZN man home, claiming the last gold in 10th position.

His team manager, Graham Daniel, said Mkhize has improved compared to the past two marathons: last year he suffered from cramps and in 2009 he had an injury.

Koen’s team manager, Nick Bester, said she had worked hard for her gold medal.

The second man home, South African Fanie Matshipa, said catching flu a week before the race had affected his performance, but he will be back hard next year.

“I’m honoured to be the first South African to cross that line. I’m more determined to prove myself next year by dethroning Muzhingi,” said Matshipa.

Nine-time champion Bruce Fordyce (55) missed a silver medal by 30 seconds after clocking seven hours 30 minutes and 30 seconds, and has vowed to come back strong next year.

Like many other runners, Fordyce said Polly Shortts is the tricky hill to beat and he had to slow his pace there.

“Polly Shortts is a nightmare to most runners. If it had not been for my slowing down there I could have made the time for the silver medal. But next year I’ll work harder to get the medal,” said Fordyce.

Just as the final gun rang out on cut-off time, Sbusiso Ntuli of Inanda crossed the line, making him the last athlete to finish, in his seventh race.

Ntuli spent two days in hospital this month.

“I’m happy to have got to the finishing line. I knew that this would be difficult for me but I hung in there. If it wasn’t for my sickness and hospitalisation I could have done better,” said Ntuli.

On the route Ntuli would rest at intervals as he battled stomach cramps and painful muscles, but he soldiered on until the last stride.

In the main medical station doctors and nurses became busy earlier than usual.

A spokesperson for the race, Darren Pullen, said they had been treating athletes for exhaustion, cramp and dehydration.

“We had no major incidents except general exhaustion and cramp. We have taken only about five athletes to various hospitals around Pietermaritzburg and Durban for treatment,” said Pullen.

“The difference is that we are busier than usual, but there are no major conditions.”

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