Gerda Steyn wins third Comrades in record time

10 Jun 2024
Gerda Steyn

Gerda Steyn won her third Comrades Marathon crown in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday, smashing her own up-run best time as she crossed the line in an unofficial 5hr 49min 43sec, while Piet Wiersma of the Netherlands was the men’s winner.

Defending champion Steyn, who broke the down-run best time in 2023, set the previous 5:58:53 up mark in 2019.

After a conservative start, Russian runner Alexandra Morozova, who won the women’s race in 2022, made a charge to finish in second in 6:04:58.

US runner Courtney Olsen came from deep in the field, and in sixth place just past Umlaas Road after Camperdown, to finish third.

Carla Molinaro edged Nobukhosi Buhle Tshuma in a tight race at the finish for fourth place.

As expected, SA’s ultra-marathon sensation Steyn — running a Comrades just more than a month before she competes in the Olympic marathon in Paris on August 10 — ran strongly in front for most of the women’s race, not far behind the men’s leaders.

Steyn upped the pace after halfway. Before Drummond, she was reportedly in 117th place overall, approaching Pietermaritzburg she was 46th, and in the top 30 as she approached the finish.

With the record in sight, she sprinted into the finish at Scottsville.

For a long period past halfway, Loveness Madziva was the chasing woman in second some way behind. She was passed near Camperdown by Hollywood Athletic Club teammate Molinaro.

However, Olsen passed a battling Molinaro as Pietermaritzburg neared, but Molinaro picked up the pace to pass Olsen.

Wiersma crossed the finish line in Pietermaritzburg in 5hr 24min 56sec, just missing Leonid Shvetsov’s record of 5:24:39 by 17 seconds. His time is the second-fastest in the men’s race.

Nedbank Running Club teammate Dan Matshailwe was second in 5:25:40. Ethiopian Degefa Lafebo was third in 5:27:45.

Wiersma, who finished 3sec behind Tete Dijana in second in the 2023 down run, thrived with his strength going up as he pulled away with a break on the notorious Polly Shortts and opening the gap outside Pietermaritzburg.

Dijana, winner of the successive down-runs in 2020 and 2021, failed to join a group of five men’s runners who have won a “hat-trick” with three successive Comrades in the 103-year history of SA’s premier road running race.

The 85.9km race started at 5am in Doctor Pixley Kaseme Street in front of Durban’s City Hall and finished at Scottsville in Pietermaritzburg.

Lesotho’s Jobo Khatoane led for about two hours in the first half before predictably dropping to obscurity. Russian Aleksei Beresnev took the lead from Khatoane about halfway through Thousand Hills. But his surge also came too soon.

A chasing group of Dijana, Dan Moselakwe, Wiersma and Lafebo passed Beresnev just past the Comrades’ highest point at Umlaas Road. Soon after that Nedbank runner Edward Mothibi, who had dropped off the pace, came into sight of the front four.

Wiersma, who prioritised training on hills for six weeks in Kenya before the race, made a move up Polly Shortts, pulling away as Matshailwe, another Nedbank runner who earlier dropped the pace, raced into second with Lafebo in third.

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