JOHANNESBURG – A smiling Gerda Steyn said “she can’t believe” that she has become the first woman to break through the six-hour Comrades Marathon barrier.
The 29-year-old Steyn became the first woman since Frith van der Merwe in 1989 to win the Comrades and Two Oceans titles in the same year when she won in a new up run record time of 5hr 58min 53sec yesterday.
Steyn chopped more than 10 minutes off Russian athlete Elena Nurgalieva’s up run record of 6:09:23 she set in 2006. She finished 17th overall finishing ahead of 2016 men’s Comrades winner David Gatebe, who clocked 6:00.16.
“I can’t believe this happened today, I feel just very blessed for a great race today,” Steyn said. “This year, I sort of didn’t plan and decided to go with my ability, and over the first half, I tried to take it in.
“When I got to halfway, I was looking at my watch, and I knew I was on a course record, so I knew my race would start now. I gave it my all, and I left it all on the road.”
Steyn broke clear of the rest of the field before the halfway mark and opened more daylight between her and the chasing pack. Russian Alexandra Morozova finished nearly 20 minutes behind her in a time of 6:17:40, with Irish athlete Caitriona Jennings finishing third in 6:24:12.
In the men’s race Edward Mothibi won his first title in only his second attempt in the race clocking 5:31:33.
Mothibi produced a stunning upset winning his maiden Comrades and spoiling defending champion Bongmusa Mthembu’s attempt at a fourth consecutive title. The Mahikeng-born Mothibi signalled his potential on debut finishing fourth last year with an impressive 5:36.
In hindsight, Mthembu may feel he timed his breakaway from Mothibi too early at the bottom of Polly Shortts.
Mthembu could not open daylight ahead of a chasing Mothibi who ultimately overtook him and crested the iconic hill.
Running the race of his life, Mothibi opened up a gap with every step towards the finish at the Scottsville Racecourse to win the 87km up run.
Mothibi carried the mayoral baton across the line with Mthembu following in second place for his eight Comrades gold in a time of 5:31.58.
World 100km record holder, Nao Kazami of Japan, was the third man to cross the finish line in a time of 5:39:16.
“Right now, I feel very excited and happy; I can’t describe how it feels. I honestly didn’t think I would win the race today,” Mothibi said.