Comrades women’s champ Steyn proud of record ‘bonus’

2019-06-10 16:29
Gerda Steyn (Gallo Images)

Gerda Steyn (Gallo Images)

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The record was just a bonus, said this year’s women’s Comrades champion Gerda Steyn after her barnstorming performance on Sunday which took her over the finish line in 17th position overall at Scottsville racecourse.

In doing so she became the first woman to break six hours for an Up Run, in the fourth-fastest women’s time in history. Steyn stopped the clock in 5:58:53 — over 10 minutes faster than Elena Nurgalieva’s 6:09:23 in 2004.

The last time a woman finished in the top 20 was when Frith van der Merwe broke the Down Run record back in 1989.

“I can’t believe what happened,” said Steyn after the race. “When I got to half way, I just looked at my watch and I knew that I was on a course record. I just knew that my race would start now and I gave it all. I was in good shape ... so breaking records was at the back of my mind, but it wasn’t my number one goal. It’s just a big bonus on my win.”

By contrast, local hero Bongmusa Mthembu lost out on victory by 25 seconds, and must have rued the toll that winning the Two Oceans in April took on his legs. However, he said he didn’t believe that the Two Oceans victory had cost him.

Edward Mothibi, running his second Comrades, beat out Mthembu in 5:31:33. Mthembu said that “because the guys were fast, from Little Polly Shortts I just took it easy knowing that I will do the same in Polly Shortts. That was my plan, but Edward didn’t take any chances. This guy ran a very smart race and that was the end of it for me.”

“If it’s not your day, it’s just not your day. I’m happy that he [Edward] took the chance. Today he played his card and he got the result.”

Mthembu had many fans cheering him on.

Ziziwe Mnxati, who hails from Mthembu’s home town of Bulwer, said: “Bongmusa is our neighbour and we all went to school together. We came here to support him. He might not have won but he is still our champion ...”

Grace Mlambo said she was disappointed that Mthembu was not able to take the title again this year. “At least he came in second, we’re still proud of our local boy.”

They were among the thousands of friends and spectators who cheered on the 18 162 runners who set off from Durban on Sunday morning all hoping to cross the finish line before the 5.30 pm cut-off time. Organisers said 16 439 managed the feat.

Ngenisiswe Ndabela, who is originally from Scottsville but stays in North West, said she had specifically travelled to support her son, Sithembiso, who was running the race for the first time. She was clapping and cheering on other runners as she waited with her friends.

Meanwhile, Dr Jeremy Boulter, the medical director at Comrades, said the medical tent had been quieter than in previous years. By 7 pm last night he said doctors and medics were still busy attending athletes. He was un­able to say at the time whether any runners had been referred to hospital.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  comrades marathon

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