Unfinished business, more broken records for athletes

Gerda Steyn, who smashed her record in the women’s race with men’s winner Piet Wiersma from the Netherlands. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/Independent Newspapers

Gerda Steyn, who smashed her record in the women’s race with men’s winner Piet Wiersma from the Netherlands. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 10, 2024


Dutchman Piet Wiersma and Gerda Steyn emerged as the winners of the 2024 Comrades Marathon up-run from Durban to the HollywoodBets Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.

Wiersma, 26, of the Nedbank Running Club International (Netherlands), had the opportunity to rewrite history after being disappointed last year when he came second, with a time of 5:14.01, just three seconds behind Tete Dijana in a sprint to the finish. He finished strongly on Sunday after picking up the pace at Polly Shorts and experiencing some cramping, with a time of 5:25.00.

“It definitely feels like I finished some unfinished business from last year, so it feels good,” he said.

Describing his journey from last year’s Comrades to now, Wiersma said everything did not go according to plan because, after a short resting period, he discovered that he had a serious Achilles injury on both tendons.

He said it took 18 months for him to recover and only in February did he start running at full capacity.

“The year didn’t start perfectly, but then again as many champions in the past have said, it’s not always bad to be injured early in the year. It just means you start to build up a little later, which means you’re fresh coming into Comrades.”

Wiersma, who graduated with a Master’s degree last November, said he decided to go to Kenya for six weeks, where he shared a room with no running water with a friend.

“I felt I was resting there very well and discipline (training) was very high,” said Wiersma. His Comrades victory was his biggest running achievement, he said.

“Comrades is the biggest ultra-marathon in the world and by far the biggest race I have participated in in my life. I said this last year – I was blown away about how big the race is in South Africa and the audience support,” he said, noting that the constant support gave him energy because it was not always easy.

Nedbank Club runner Dan Moselakwe took second place with a time of 5:25.45.

Moselakwe, who is also part of the Dijana Nedbank training group, managed to catch up with the race leaders and broke away for a strong finish. He said he enjoyed the race and tried hard to be disciplined with his pace from the first kilometre. Commenting on the last 14km of the 85.91km race, Moselakwe said he thought he could catch up with Wiersma.

“Piet was so strong and he was so consistent with his pacing. He is good at climbing and dangerous on the down.”

Moselakwe said he kept pushing after Wiersma made his move, adding that he was very happy to be the first South African to cross the finish line.

While his goal was to win, Moselakwe said he was happy with his position and he thanked his sponsors and his training partners.

He said the race was special for him, not only because he did not finish last year, but also because it was the first time his family had come to a race since he started running in 2016. “That’s why I said I won’t let them down,” said Moselakwe.

In the women’s race, Steyn, of the Phantane Athletics Club, reclaimed her title and broke another record, with a time of 5:49.46, beating her 2019 up-run time of 5:58.53.

Last year she smashed the 34-year-old record set by Frith van der Merwe of 05:54.43 in 1989 by 10 minutes when she crossed the finish line in 05:44.54.

“I’m very pleased with the results today. I think we have seen the strongest female field that we have ever seen in the history of Comrades. I can’t believe the top 10 times, it’s mind-blowing,” she said.

The three-time Comrades winner said her race went well. She started fast, with a goal in mind. “I wanted to give myself a chance to chase the record,” Steyn said.

She knew at the halfway mark that she was strong and she pushed on until the finish.

“It was magical. There was so much support from kilometre 1 to kilometre 86 and I feel appreciative of all the support I have received. My performance today was not personal, it was for everyone to enjoy and I want to show my gratitude to everyone who supports me with this result,” said Steyn.

Steyn plans to train in France until the Summer Olympic Games in July. “This year I set myself a different challenge, I’m sure it’s never been done before for an athlete to do both the Comrades Marathon and the Olympics in the same year.”

She placed 15th in the last Olympic Games and hopes for a better place this year. “I hope something like this will be inspiring for young athletes and for older people as well in other professions to go after difficult things and to make a success out of it.”

Russia’s Alexandra Morozova took second place with a time of 6:05.12 and Courtney Olsen of the US came third in a time of 6:08.09. Morozova said it was a tough race from the beginning to the end, both physically and emotionally.

“I was in the eighth position for a long time and I’m very happy that I came second,” she said.

She said the race was difficult emotionally because everyone was so fast and it was hard to catch up and keep up with the pace of the other runners.

The Mercury