Comrades Marathon ‘King’, Bruce Fordyce, nine times winner of the world’s greatest ultra marathon, has warned the lead runners in Sunday’s 90th anniversary edition of the 87.7km event that he will be watching them, albeit remotely, and that they better not let him see them walking at Polly Shorts.
Fordyce, who will again be doing television commentary, said that from his point of view, this year’s “up run” from Durban to Pietermaritzburg is again wide open when it comes down to forecasting a winner.
He expected the Team Nedbank trio, 2013 up run winner Claude Moshiwa, defending 2014 winner Bongumusa Mthembu and 2012 champion and 2014 runner-up, Ludwick Mamabolo, to all be in the forefront of this year’s men’s race along with any number of top 10 finishers from recent years.
These would include three times winner in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi, third last year Gift Kelehe (Samancor), another Zimbabwean in Prodigal Khumalo, and novice Mabuthile Lebopo from Lesotho to name but a few.
The women’s race is no less packed with possible champions including the UK’s 2014 winner Eleanor Greenwood (Nedbank), the multiple winners, Russian twins Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva (Maxed Elite), 2015 Two Oceans winner Caroline Wostmann and Irina Antropova (Nedbank) and Zimbabwean Thabitha Tsatsa.
Fordyce said with rain forecast for Sunday there could be a drastic change of fortunes, especially at the start. “Nobody enjoys starting out soaking wet. Rain will also affect the number of spectators who traditionally line the route shouting encouragement to the runners. A smaller crowd means less enthusiasm and crowd support counts for a lot – I used to feed off it big time.”
This year’s increased prize-money will be allocated as follows: R375000 to the winner, R190000 for second to finish and R140000 for third place all the way down to the 10th runner who will receive R17000.
There is a massive incentive of R1.5-million for any runner – male or female – who break the existing up run best times of 5hr 24min 49sec and 6:09:23 respectively set by the two Russian icons, Leonid Shvetsov in 2008 and Elena Nurgalieva in 2006.
The first South African man and woman to finish will each receive R175000 and the first KZN man and woman R30000.
Fordyce said one of his personal highlights at this year’s Comrades would be meeting one of the CMA guests of honour, Britain’s 1965 winner Bernard Gomersall.
“He is a Yorkshireman as far as I can remember,” said Fordyce, “and he not only beat Jackie Mekler in that race but set a record of 5:51:09 for the down run into the bargain. This year’s race will be 50 years since Bernard’s achievement.”
Fordyce wondered if anyone would know the answer to this poser: “What do these four Comrades winners have in common – Shaun Meiklejohn, Jackie Mekler, Bernard Gomersall and myself?
“I’ll tell you – they were all also winners of the iconic London to Brighton race. Bernard won it four times and I won it three times.” said Fordyce - The Star