Bongmusa Mthembu secured his maiden Comrades Marathon victory after winning the 89km down run on Sunday. Photo: Anesh Debiky

Durban – Bongmusa Mthembu won his maiden Comrades Marathon after clinching the 2014 “down run” title by a comfortable margin in Durban on Sunday.

The Nedbank runner, winner of three previous gold medals in one of the world’s most famous ultra marathons, crossed the line in a time of five hours, 28 minutes and 34 seconds (5:28.34).

He finished the 89.28km race over four minutes ahead of Ludwick Mamabolo, the defending “down run” winner from 2012 who recorded a time of 5:33.14.

Mthembu, from Bulwer just outside Pietermaritzburg in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, took the lead just before Cowies Hill – about 17km before the Kingsmead Stadium finish – and never looked back, finishing strongly on his way to claiming the R350 000 top-prize.

Gift Kelehe, brother of 2001 winner Andrew, came third in a time of 5:34.39 with three-time former champion Stephen Muzhingi (5:35.18) of Zimbabwe fourth, followed by countryman Rufus Photo (5:35.30) fifth.

Earlier, Joseph Mphuti took the lead at three-quarters of the way through the race after taking over from Gert Thys just before Pinetown on Sunday.

The South African, from the Toyota team, took over from Thys around Everton Road, having crossed the halfway mark outside the top 10 with a time of two hours, 46 minutes and 22 seconds (2:46:22).

Thys, the national marathon record holder, has since faded away badly and was even spotted walking with one shoe off with a little over 22km of the 89.28km still remaining to Durban.

British-born Canadian runner Eleanor Greenwood put up a strong performance to win the women’s race. – Sapa