Comrades star Edward Mothibi: I pray to God that I don’t finish fifth

Edward Mothibi celebrates after winning the 2019 Comrades Marathon. Picture: Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo / Independent Media

Edward Mothibi celebrates after winning the 2019 Comrades Marathon. Picture: Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo / Independent Media

Published Mar 5, 2024


Edward “Slender” Mothibi is preparing for his fifth Comrades Marathon with the defending champion of the Up Run intent on defying superstition at the world-famous ultra-marathon.

“I pray to God that I don’t get fifth position,” the Nedbank Running Club athlete said, during an address to the members of the Midrand Striders at the weekend.

“I have run Comrades four times and I have never been out of the gold positions (top 10). And in those four years, I got all the top four positions.”

Mothibi made his Comrades debut in the 2018 Down Run – from Pietermaritzburg to Durban – and finished in fourth place having looked likely to finish second for most of the race.

“Then those who watched would remember what happened in my first Comrades when I finished in position four,” he reflected of the heartbreak of being overtaken in the last stretch by both Joseph Mphuti and Stephen Way.

“I lost second spot with just 3km to go as I was chasing (winner) Bongmusa Mthembu for the whole race. But I lost it when I got into Durban.”

He made up for that the following year by winning the Up Run, his surge up Polly Shortts to leave Mthembu in his wake being one of the most memorable moments of the Ultimate Human Race as the athlete from Mahikeng denied the beloved Mthembu a hattrick of victories.

With Covid-19 ensuring there were no races in 2020 and 2021, Mothibi returned in 2022 and looked set to complete a Comrades double (Up and Down wins) only to have his teammate and protégé Morena Tete Dijana outrun him in the final kilometre or so. He got the runner-up berth he missed out on in his maiden race, though.

Last year, it looked as though they (Mothibi and Dijana) would complete yet another one-two, only for Piet Wiersma to upset the apple cart – the Dutchman taking the runner-up berth as Dijana smashed the best time of 5:18:19, set by David Gatebe back in 2016, to smithereens with his 5:13:58.

Mothibi had to be content with third place with an impressive time of 5:17:34, nearly a minute under Gatebe’s mark that had hitherto been considered unlikely to be broken. Granted the distance last year was a little shorter than when Gatebe ran that remarkable race, but there should be no taking away from the incredible run the top three had.

A smile of contentment flickered across Mothibi’s face as he reflected on his four Comrades appearances. And who wouldn’t be content with finishing fourth, first, second and third in such a difficult race.

As he goes into his fifth, the superstitious would no doubt say he will finish in fifth place. Mothibi will be going all out to avoid that come June 9.

“I don’t want to be running in at fifth place,” he said to great mirth from the crowd that lapped up his every word as he told them that the key to his success is being ‘disciplined’. “I want to go back to No 1.

“Start to examine yourself. Self-discipline is doing the right thing, instead of doing what you feel like doing.

“I quote ‘only the disciplined are free in life. If you are not disciplined, you are a slave to your moods and your passions’.

“When you bring motivation and discipline together, you will be consistent. And if you want to grow, consistency is the key.”