Debbie Schoeman, of Vanderbijlpark, missed the Comrades cut-off time after going to the rescue of a runner who had collapsed.

In the true spirit of Comrades, a nurse compromised her opportunity to finish the marathon on time to save the life of a fellow runner.

Debbie Schoeman, of Vanderbijlpark, missed the cut-off time by nine minutes. She said she had been running in a group when the runner had collapsed and stopped breathing.


“We were approaching the 80km mark when he said he wasn’t feeling good. I told him to breathe because we were almost there.

“The marathon is particularly hard on the body, on everyone, so it wasn’t shocking to hear something like that,” she said.

Together, Schoeman thought, they would finish the race before the cut-off time.

The 45-year-old mother of two said the man began to lag behind.

“I went back to see what had happened. He had no pulse and he wasn’t breathing,” she said.


Schoeman, who has been a nurse for 24 years, said she did not panic. “I was on autopilot and remained calm because that’s what I have been trained to do. I have done this plenty of times before.”

Schoeman said she knew saving someone’s life was more important than finishing the race.

“I would have loved to finish the race, to redeem myself for last year’s failure, but the life of a person is much more important.

“I resuscitated him by giving him mouth-to-mouth and massaging his heart until he regained consciousness.

“The medics came to help and managed to stabilise him before rushing him off to hospital.”

She failed to complete the race last year because she fell ill en route.

“After the 67km mark, I pulled out of the race,” she said.

She has been able to finish the race on two occasions, in 2004 and 2005, but retired afterwards only to make a return to road running four years ago.

Delaine Cools, Comrades Marathon spokeswoman, confirmed the incident, but said the association could not divulge the identity of the runner.

“His family asked us not to reveal his identity,” she said.