Bongmusa Mthembu was crowned 2014 Comrades Marathon champion on Sunday. The South African ran a time of five hours, 28 minutes and 34 seconds to triumph in front of a home crowd.
The official Comrades Marathon Twitter account was on hand to capture the first-place finisher's crowning moment, with countryman Ludwick Mamabolo finishing second and Gift Kelehe in third:
Mthembu was four minutes and 41 seconds faster than nearest rival Mamabolo, clocking in with an average time of three minutes and 41 seconds per kilometre.
Elena Nurgalieva had the opportunity to record her ninth victory in the 89-kilometre ultramarathon, but she dropped off the leading pace with barely six kilometres remaining, giving way to Nedbank International runner Eleanor Greenwood.
|1||Bongmusa Mthembu||South Africa||5:28:34|
|2||Ludwick Mamabolo||South Africa||+4:41|
|3||Gift Kelehe||South Africa||+6:06|
|5||Rufus Photo||South Africa||+6:57|
|6||Mncedisi Mkhize||South Africa||+7:33|
|8||Manoko William Mokwalakwala||South Africa||+10:56|
|10||Latudi Makofane||South Africa||+12:08|
Greenwood finished atop the women's pile with a time of six hours, 18 minutes and 15 seconds. As East Coast Radio's Andre Bloem points out, the result represents a break in the Nurgalieva hold over the largest ultramarathon in the world:
Had Elena, the more successful of the Nurgalieva twins, been able to prevail, the Russian would have tied Bruce Fordyce's nine race wins—five more than any other woman has ever managed:
Elena Nurgalieva well on her way to making history and equalling Bruce Fordyces 9 wins— Comrades Marathon (@ComradesRace) June 1, 2014
As it is, however, she misjudged her run and blew up short of the finish line, slipping to Greenwood's perseverance at a crucial juncture in the course.
|1||Eleanor Greenwood||Great Britain||6:18:15|
|4||Irina Antropova||South Africa||+15:53|
|5||Camille Herron||United States||+28:48|
|6||Jo Meek||Great Britain||+33:29|
|7||Caroline Wostmann||South Africa||+37:40|
|9||Zola Budd Pieterse||South Africa||+42:32|
|10||Martinique Potgieter||South Africa||+44:35|
While Nurgalieva is well-versed in the ways of winning under the South African sun, this was a maiden championship for Mthembu, presenting two quite opposite modes of victors in this year's event.
Mthembu placed third in the 2010 Comrades Marathon, and this year's run will be remembered as a moment of realisation for all his past attempts in taking home the biggest prize at stake.
Not only that, but the finish line will have been especially sentimental for Mthembu, who ran into hometown territory as a Pietermaritzburg native, having been born near Bulwer.
His time is the fastest any competitor has run since 2009 when Stephen Muzhingi went from Durban to the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands in five hours, 23 minutes and 27 seconds, also on the down run.
Sweden's Jonas Buud was the only non-African who managed to break into the men's top 10, flying a lonely flag for Europe and finishing seventh overall—nine minutes and 44 seconds behind Mthembu.
Mthembu is the fourth athlete to have won the men's race in the last four years, after Leonid Shvetsov and Muzhingi shared the championship between them from 2007 to 2011.