Durban - South African David Gatebe won the men's Comrades Marathon in a record time of 5 hours 18 minutes and 19 seconds in the 89km ultra-race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban on Sunday.
Russian Leonid Shvetsov in 2007 set the 'down' run record of 5:20:49, and the previously unheralded Gatebe in Comrades circles, put in a truly historic performance to shatter that mark by over 2 minutes.
In second place, fellow South African and 2012 Comrades champion was Ludwick Mamabolo who crossed the line in 5:24:05. Taking third was another SA runner Bongmusa Mthembu in 5:26:39. Gatebe, the 2013 Two Oceans champion, had not made it into the top 20 in his three previous attempts.
Gatebe, however, does have a 2:14 marathon time behind his name and showed off his speed in the latter stages of the race to power to victory. The 34-year-old worked his way up from 54th position after 16.5km, moving into the top 10 at the halfway stage. But in the final 44km, Gatebe was unmatched in the way he powered ahead to claim a memorable breakthrough win. As he crossed the line, Gatebe even managed to do pushups for the appreciative crowd.
"I'm feeling so good and happy I broke the record," said Gatebe afterwards. "I told myself, not to worry about anyone and just ran on my own near the end." Zimbabwe's Bernard Dandazi went through the halfway point at Drummond Hill with the lead in a time of 2:42:16, but as soon as he passed that mark he began walking and the chasing pack glided past.
At that point Gert Thys was the best-placed South African runner in fifth position and 35 seconds behind. With 30km to go and beginning the steepest part of the descent down to Durban, Zimbabwean Mike Fokoroni and Lesotho's Teboho Sello were running together at the front with a minute gap between the chasers.
Just on the 4-hour mark, Gatebe caught the leading duo before moving ahead as he began his attack in the final stages of the race as he entered Pinetown. As Gatebe neared Cowies Hill with 18.5km to go, he had opened up a minute gap over Mamabolo who had moved into second place. Sello, meanwhile, had fallen to 2:39 behind.
Gatebe maintained a phenomenal pace of around 3:30 per km heading into the final 10km of the race, as claiming the win became increasingly likely.