Durban - Eleanor Greenwood was an emotional winner of the women’s race in Sunday’s Comrades Marathon between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

The 35-year-old describes herself as a “running addict” who prefers trail running to road running, but who has run countless standard marathons.

On hearing about the Comrades Marathon, she came to Durban for the first time in 2011 as a novice in the ultimate human race, and was the fourth woman to finish in a time of 6:32:47.

In 2012 she returned for a second bite at the cherry, and this time she came second in 6:08:24.

She planned to come again last year and to continue improving her time in the great race, but was unfortunately injured and could not run.

This year she was one of 59 Canadians who made the pilgrimage, most of whom made the trip on the back of what Ellie, as she is affectionately known, told them about the Comrades.

But she never for a moment thought she would walk away with the winner’s spoils – it came as a great surprise, she said at the media conference after the race.

Eight minutes behind the race leaders at one stage as she went through a bad patch, and still four minutes off the pace at the halfway mark at Drummond, Greenwood slowly but surely reeled in South Africa’s Charne Bosman and Camille Herron.

In an incredible burst of speed, Greenwood rapidly closed the gap between herself and the Russian sisters, Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva, who have dominated the race since winning it for the first time in 2003 and have 11 winners’ medals between them from 11 starts.

Greenwood then surged to victory and a tumultuous welcome from the big crowd lining the route and inside the stadium as she crossed the finish line.

“As I began to realise I could win the race,” she said at the media briefing later, “I thought of my mum and dad in Scotland and thought how proud they would be of me, and said to myself, ‘you have to do this for them’.”

At this point an emotional Greenwood wept openly and said: “This is the pinnacle of my (running) career.”

She also paid tribute to 48-year-old Zola Budd Pieterse, who achieved her dream of finishing in under seven-and-a-half hours for a silver medal, and who, by finishing in seventh place in 6:55:55 – nearly 35 minutes faster than her goal – won a gold medal.