The 2018 Comrades Ultra-Marathon women’s race is expected to be a battle of experience versus speed with defending down-run champion Charné Bosman and rising star Gerda Steyn set to challenge for the title.
A host of contenders have been forced to withdraw from the iconic race, including 2017 champion Camille Herron of the United States and 2015 winner Caroline Wöstmann. But this should not take anything away from what should be an intriguing battle between front-runners Steyn and Bosman.
Steyn has emerged as the favourite following her impressive 2018 Two Oceans victory in April in a time of 3:39.26, becoming only the third South African woman to win the title in the last decade. She has shown immense speed over the last year, racing to a new personal best of 2:37:22 at the Valencia Marathon in December and finishing fourth at last year’s Comrades.
Steyn said: “I thought after Two Oceans that I would be even more anxious because I won but to be honest it now feels like the pressure is off because I have already achieved this year. I am very calm and of course, to win the double would be an amazing achievement for me but I do not feel the pressure. I told myself, whatever happens, happens and it is a bonus if I claim a top position.”
Defending down-run winner and seasoned campaigner Bosman is the biggest threat to her achieving the historic feat. Bosman has been in fine form this season finishing third at Two Oceans while winning the Loskop Dam 50km ultra. What Bosman lacks in speed she more than makes up in strength and experience and will be difficult to beat.
“So far I have experienced one of my best years in races like Loskop so I am feeling well and healthy,” Bosman said. I will give it my best, I’ve worked hard in the gym, so I believe I am a much stronger athlete than two years ago."
Her 2016 victory where she reeled in defending champion Wöstmann in the dying stages of the race before overtaking her with three kilometres to go to the finish. That victory should serve as an indication of her grit, determination and tactical abilities which is a potent combination in the gruelling race. Both athletes said they would focus on their own race plans instead of the rivalry.
“I definitely see Charné as the biggest competition but at the end of the day it is you against the distance and the race,” Steyn said.
Bosman contended: “This race is never over, you saw what happened in 2016, I was 18 minutes behind Caroline at Cowies, and with 10 kilometres to go, I was 10 minutes behind her."