MTHEMBU BAGS HIS SECOND COMRADES TITLE
Written by: Samukelisiwe Nzimande
Bongumusa Mthembu made history by being the first South African to win the Comrades Marathon twice after a 27-year drought.
The Arthur Ford Athletics Club runner and current down-run champion came from behind to win the gruelling human race in under 6 hours.
Charles Tjiane took early control in the 87km up-run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, reaching the halfway point in Drummond in 2:47:29, nearly two minutes clear of a large chasing group.
The group caught up with Tjiane with only 22km to go and that gave Mthembu the motivation to pick up his pace.
Mthembu took the lead approaching the infamous Polly Shorts climb with less than 10km remaining. He held on to secure victory in 5:35:34, missing the up-run record by 11 minutes but finishing more than three minutes ahead of 2nd place Zimbabwean athlete Hatiwande Nyamande who finished in 5:38:48.
“I had my plan and they were not my competitors. I knew that they would run the Comrades but then I was focussing on myself,” Mthembu said.
Defending up-run champion Gift Kelehe finished third in 5:41:48, fellow former winner Ludwick Mamabolo ended fourth in 5:42:40, and Tjiane did well to hang on for fifth place in 5:45:26.
Speaking at a press conference, Mthembu said that it is not about money.
“I love sports so money comes maybe fourth or fifth,” Mthembu said.
Former up-run winner and third placed Gift Kelehe said that in the last 20km, he felt some stiffness in his hamstring which bothered him frequently.
“That is why I put lots of water on it and Bongs [Bongmusa] was telling me to pick up the pace and he could see that I was struggling so he picked up his pace,” Kelehe said.
“He ran very well and I’m happy for him to win the up-run because the people have this mentality that he [Bongmusa] is an up-run specialist but he has changed that mindset today,” Kelehe added.
*Caption: Bongumusa Mthembu in full stride well clear of other runners. Photo credit – Anele Nduzulwana