Tete Dijana, Gerda Steyn’s legacies etched into record books in a Comrades Marathon to remember

Gerda Steyn on the Comrades Marathon route.

The Comrades marathon where thousands make their way from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. Seen here passing Harrison Flats, with 55Km still to go. Gerda Steyn the winner of the Comrades surrounded by runners. Photo: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 12, 2023


Durban - A Comrades Marathon day like the one that played out yesterday is unlikely to happen again any time soon.

The 96th running of the ultra marathon popularly referred to as ‘The Ultimate Human Race’ saw the “records” of both the men’s and women’s races smashed to smithereens.

And the winners could not have been more delightful individuals, Tete Dijana and Gerda Steyn having established themselves as the darlings of South Africa’s road running scene.

Dijana only just held on to the title he won last year by smashing David Gatebe’s previous down run best time of 5hr 18min 19sec with his 5:13:58, just three seconds ahead of surprise package Piet Wiersman from the Netherlands.

Steyn was again in a class of her own as she added the down run best time to the up one she set in 2019. The Phantane Athletics Club starlet cantered to victory unchallenged in 5:44:54,knocking nearly 10 minutes off Frith Van der Merwe’s longstanding mark of 5:54:43 from way back in 1989.

The men’s race was run at such a frenetic pace that even third-placed Edward Mothibi crossed the finish line under Gatebe’s time from 2016, the 2019 champion clocking 5:17:34.

In the women’s race, it was a rare one-two-three for South Africa, with Adele Broodryk moving up a spot from last year to finish behind Steyn, while Carla Molinara ensured Phantane dominated the podium by finishing third.

A few hours after their impressive victories, Dijana and Steyn wore those bright smiles which has endeared them to the running public as they spoke at the post-race press conference deep in the bowels of Kingsmead.

Dijana, a world record holder in the 50km, dedicated his victory to his coach Dave Adams who had to miss the race due to injury and was thus not at hand to give his runner a bear hug similar to that from last year at the finish line.

“My coach is not well, he wanted to come but the situation did not allow him. When he says something it happens, he’s an old man when you follow the rules it happens,” Dijana said of the Comrades green number holder who had said before the race that he wanted the record.

“This win is also for my kids.

I’ve been away for two months and they call me and say can you come home later. I am going to invest my winning for them.”

Steyn – now a holder of all four records in SA’s main road races – the marathon, the 56km Two Oceans Marathon as well as both the up and down records of the Comrades – said she is living her dream.

“It’s amazing to hold all the records I’ve wanted for so long at the same time. I was thinking that perhaps the marathon record (of 2:25:28) was going to go this year (Dominic Scott-Efurd threatened to break it during the London Marathon when she ran a 2:29:19). But yes I would love to make sure that I keep the records and my plan is to improve on them,” Steyn said.

While Dijana said he only started thinking of the record when he was five kilometres from the finish, Steyn said she knew she was good for it and had chosen not to speak much ahead of the race. But upon waking up she knew it was going to be a good day.

“I woke up feeling good. I was dreaming about this day, I woke up knowing I did the preparations and with the beautiful weather I felt it was lined up for a good time,” Steyn said.

And she ran an absolutely good time alright; Steyn shattering Van der Merwe’s record, which was set before she was born. She was her usual magnanimous self in victory though.

“I have the utmost respect for Frith,” Steyn said “Frith will not be forgotten, not by me and not by anyone. Everyone regards her as the best, her legacy will stay.”

Steyn has already built a legacy of her own that is sure to stay for a long time. And Dijana has done exactly the same too.