South African David Gatebe won the men’s race in 5:18:19 while compatriot Charne Bosman took the women’s race in 6:25:55 at the 2016 Comrades Marathon – the 89km ultra-race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban on Sunday.
David Gatebe, previously unheralded in Comrades Marathon circles, put in a truly historic performance to shatter the ‘down’ run record of 5:20:49 – set by Russian Leonid Shvetsov in 2007 – 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 South African 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.
Bosman edges Wostmann in women’s race
South African Charne Bosman won the women’s Comrades Marathon 89km ultra-race in a time of 6 hours 25 minutes and 55 seconds.
Bosman beat out defending champion Caroline Wostmann 6:30:44, who had opened up an 11-minute gap at one stage, for top-honours.
Wostmann had looked set to repeat her win in 2015 when she won by over 20 minutes, but battled cramp, injury and even a collision with a race motorbike in the latter stages of the event.
Bosman, 40, had never claimed victory in an ultra-race before but her steady pace throughout helped her pass Wostmann in the final two kilometres, and power through to a breakthrough victory.
Kasja Berg of Sweden claimed third place in a time of 6:39:04. Wostmann took the initiative early on, and began moving ahead near halfway as she upped her pace per kilometre by five seconds to 4:06 per km.
Wostmann eased through Drummond Hill in 3:07:54. In second place was Bosman in 3:12:05, just over four minutes behind Wostmann.
The defending champion continued to increase her average pace throughout the race, forging an 11-minute gap between herself and Bosman. Like she did in 2015, Wotsmann took a walking break up Cowies Hill with around 17km to go.
She used the break to take in an energy drink before she began running again. Less than a minute later, however, Wostmann stopped again to take another sip of her drink, but it would prove to be an even shorter break as she resumed her race pace with relative ease.
A third walking break followed, at the 5:30 mark for Wostmann but again she resumed quickly. It was at that point that Wostmann ran into a race motorbike which fell to the ground as a result.
Slow motion replays showed that Wostmann had been reaching for a drink at one of the water stations, but the bike was way too close and the collision resulted. Wostmann, fortunately, was unharmed and continued on her way.
But the walking breaks continued for Wostmann as she did indeed look to be battling cramp or injury.
Further walk breaks continued for Wostmann as her gap at the front kept reducing. At 5:45 into the race, Wostmann appeared to be struggling noticeably with her running style and rhythm before she fell.
She got up slowly and even more sedately started running again. Up another hill just before the 6-hour mark, Wostmann was reduced to walking for an entire minute once again as she appeared increasingly disorientated.
Eventually, Bosman came flying past with the finish at Kingsmead in sight, while Wostmann walked most of the way to the finish.