A banal men’s race is contrasted by a close finish in the women’s race.
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa — If there is such a thing as a non-dramatic Comrades Marathon, this one was it. Claude Moshiywa was at the front of the 88th Comrades since he took the lead on one of the five big hills, Inchanga, soon after the halfway mark. For the last 90 minutes of the 86-kilometer race, he ran unchallenged to the finish in Pietermaritzburg.
The hot and very windy conditions slowed Moshiywa over the last 10km and he had an especially tough time up the last hill, Polly Shorts, which crests just less than 8km from the end, but he won comfortably in 5:32:08 to become the first South African winner of the “up” run since Jetman Msutu took the title in 1992.
Moshiywa’s winning margin over the Swede Jonas Buud, who sliced through the field in the second half, was 9:12. The reigning “down” run champion, Ludwick Mamabolo, finished fourth, while defending “up” run champion Stephen Muzinghi finished 10th. Five South African men finished in the top 10.
In the women’s race it was business as usual, with the Nurgalieva twins filling the first two positions. Elena got her eighth victory, just one short of the record nine of Bruce Fordyce, in 6:27:08. Only five other women, with three wins each — Maria Bak, Frith van der Merwe, Helen Lucre, Lettie van Zyl and Maureen Holland — have won more than two.
Irina Antropova (Russia), formerly Vishnevskaya, was third on her 31st birthday. She has now finished sixth, sixth, seventh and third in consecutive years.
Another Russian, Marina Zhalybina, finished sixth to add the 12th gold medal to her collection and equal the record total of four-time winner Alan Robb, an achievement neither the twins nor Fordyce can match. She has been second twice and third four times.
Charné Bosman, in her first Comrades and only third ultramarathon, was the first South African in fifth.
Hot And Windy
Conditions were hot from the start and to make matters worse, the wind picked up during the course of the morning and blew very strongly during the second half of the race.
The early leader was Justin Chitake (Zimbabwe), but after about 20km, with the sun not yet risen, only five minutes separated the first 10 runners. All the main contenders were, as usual, biding their time further back.
William Chinyanga and Charles Soza caught their compatriot Chitake after 90 minutes of running, but only drew away six minutes later. Soza took the sole lead after another 20 minutes, but behind him a group led by Two Oceans winner David Gatebe, Teboho Sello (Lesotho) and Moses Njodzi (Zimbabwe), a former Two Oceans champion, was moving up and at 2:08:00 on the clock this trio took over the lead.
They immediately started testing one another with surges, and soon Gatebe could not stay in touch. Ten minutes later Njodzi was alone, running strongly but continuously glancing behind him. He reached halfway at Drummond in 2:39:20. Following him were Gatebe, Lebohang Monyele (Lesotho), Joseph Mphuthi and Mike Fokoroni (Zimbabwe), who was 30th in his first Comrades last year. Muzhingi was almost two minutes behind the leader, while Moshiywa went through in 2:41:37 and Buud in 2:47:28.
The Comrades has many hills, but there are two most runners dread on the up run. The first one, Inchanga, towers above the valley of Drummond and has been the undoing of many a front-runner who had sped down the slope towards the halfway mark. It proved to be the case again.
Njodzi soon slowed and with Mphuthi, Rufus Photo, Moshiywa, Mamabolo, Fokoroni, Gatebe and veteran Gert Thys bearing down on him the writing was on the wall. The surprise in this group was Photo (33), whose only Comrades experience was a 19th placing last year.
Moshiywa, who represented South Africa in the World Trophy 50km in 2011 and was third in that year’s up run, soon took command and with the clock showing 2:52:00 — still on the strength-sapping Inchanga (which means “blade of a knife”) — he assumed the lead, never to lose it again.
With 40km left, Fokoroni, Photo and Johannes Kekana, who had been moving up steadily, joined him, but it did not last long before Photo had to drop back.
Then, after the top of Inchanga along the aptly named Harrison Flats, the real racing started. Moshiywa and Kekana made a small gap, but it was not before another kilometer had passed that they could make a clean break from Fokoroni. Both Moshiywa (38) and Kekana (40), who finished 14th and an outstanding eighth in the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon over Easter, were running strongly and shoulder to shoulder.
Meanwhile, behind them Fokoroni was still in third and he was followed by Photo, Mamabolo, Henry Moyo (Malawi), Elias Mabane and Buud, who wasn’t in the top 30 at the halfway point.
With 26km to go, Moshiywa and Kekana apparently decided that it was time to throw down the gauntlet. They took turns surging, trying to break away, and this went on for 10 minutes before Moshiywa pulled away from the man who beat Thys for the SA half-marathon crown for veterans (masters) last year. (Thys, in the meantime, had dropped out, as he did last year.)