Comrades goes to SA homeboy
LUDWICK Mamabolo has brought the Comrades Marathon title back to South Africa.
After foreign runners had dominated the country's premier ultra marathon for seven years, the 35-year-old banker yesterday made it a home victory. He is the first South African winner since Sipho Ngomane in 2005.
The women's race was again dominated by Russia's Elena Nurgalieva, who yesterday ran to her seventh win.
Mamabolo ran a patient and strategic race in which he calculated the required amount of energy he needed to apply at various points of the race to perfection. He fell to the ground in tears and utterly exhausted when he crossed the finish line at Kingsmead in a time of 5hrs:31min:5sec.
Afterwards he said he had done it for his country.
"I'm happy to have won this race; it is a dream come true for me," he said. "It pained me when I would look at the papers and saw that no South African had been tipped to win."
Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi, who had won the Comrades the previous three years and was heavily tipped to do so again, was dethroned in spectacular fashion, coming in at sixth place.
Another South African, Mthembu Bongmusa, was second in 5:32:40, with five local athletes finishing among the top 10.
Mamabolo kept in the bunch early in the race, assessing the breathing patterns and energy levels of the other runners.
He stayed calm, avoided the TV cameras on the route and waited for the right time to pull away.
Until the halfway mark, SA standard marathon champion and Comrades novice Gert Thys led the race. From the way he started it was clear that he was either going to post a record time or tire and fade away. He eventually dropped out after 60km after struggling with low blood-sugar levels.
"When we reached halfway I saw that I was stronger than everybody. So I held back until I approached the last 42km and then decided to move faster," Mamabolo said.
"When I caught the leading bunch with Muzhingi, that was when I started believing that I could win the race. I stayed with them and listened to their rhythms. I felt so confident and told myself, this is my race.
"The last 38km, I said, let me go out and see if I can push for the lead."
With 18km to go, Mamabolo put his head down and concentrated on the finish line, never once looking back.
In the women's race, Nurgalieva, who won in 6:07:12, brushed off challenges from other foreign athletes, including Britain's Eleanor Greenwood, who was second in 6:08:24.
Kerry Koen was the first SA woman home, taking sixth position in 6:45:44.