Durban – Briton Eleanor Greenwood broke the Russian stronghold on the Comrades Marathon by becoming the first athlete from outside eastern Europe in 11 years to win the race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban on Sunday.
Bongmusa Mthembu also won his maiden title in the men’s race, after clinching the 'down run' title by a comfortable margin.
However, in one of the biggest reversals ever witnessed in the history of the race, Greenwood came from being close to eight minutes behind with around 18 kilometres remaining, to win in a time of six hours, 18 minutes and 15 seconds (6:18.15).
That gave the 35-year-old a handsome five minute and four second victory over legendary Russian Elena Nurgalieva (6:23.18), who was bidding to win a record ninth crown and equal the mark held by Bruce Fordyce.
Twin sister Olesya, a double former champion, came third in a time of a 6:24.51.
In the men's race, Nedbank runner Mthembu, winner of three previous gold medals in one of the world's most famous ultra marathons, crossed the line in a time of 5:28.34.
He finished the 89.28 kilometres race over four minutes ahead of Ludwick Mamabolo, the defending 'down run' winner from 2012 who recorded a time of 5:33.14.
Mthembu took the lead just before Cowies Hill - approximately 17 kilometres before the Kingsmead Stadium finish - and never looked back, finishing strongly on his way to claiming the R350,000 top-prize.
Gift Kelehe, brother of 2001 winner Andrew, came third in a time of 5:34.39 with three-time former champion Stephen Muzhingi (5:35.18) of Zimbabwe fourth, followed by another South African Rufus Photo (5:35.30) in fifth. – Sapa