ONE of Zimbabwe’s top ultra-distance runners Marko Mambo raised his country’s flag high during yesterday’s tough Comrades Marathon in South Africa where he finished in a credible fifth place. Running under Nedbank Running Club of South Africa, Mambo was the only Zimbabwean athlete who finished in the Top 10 in the men’s race at the end of the tough 90,184km road race when he crossed the finish line in fifth place in an official time of 5 hours 37 minutes 49 seconds.
According to reports from Durban, South Africa’s Bongmusa Mthembu defended his Comrades Marathon title, winning the 93rd edition of the race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban in commanding fashion as he clocked an official time of 5:26:34.
It was Mthembu’s third victory in the “Ultimate Human Race” having previously won the “Down” run in 2014, in addition to last year’s “Up” run.
Local hero Mthembu (34), who hails from Bulwer in KwaZulu-Natal’s Midlands, was initially timed in in an unofficial time of 5:26:39.
Fellow South African Joseph Mphuthi finished second in a distant 5:35:09, while Great Britain’s Steven Way stormed through the field to take the final podium spot in 5:35:27.
Running for the Arthur Ford Running Club, Mthembu crossed the finish line at the Moses Mabhida Stadium with his arms raised as 90.184km of agony quickly turned to joy and four places behind him was Zimbabwe’s Mambo who did well to finish in the Top 5 of this energy-sapping ultra-distance event.
Mambo was also the only Zimbabwean to finish in the Top 10 of this year’s Comrades Marathon whose distance was slightly longer for runners than in the previous years.
His fellow countryman Prodigal Khumalo came home in 11th place in 5:47:48 and was five places ahead of another Zimbabwean runner Fanuel Mapamura who was placed 16th in 5:56:46.
Two other Zimbabweans — Lovemore Chabata and veteran Mike Fokoroni — were also placed in the Top 20, coming in 18th and 19th places in 5:58:27 and 5:59:14 respectively. Little-known South African runner Ann Ashworth stunned the women’s field in yesterday’s race.
Ashworth upset the pre-race favourites in crossing the line first at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in a time of 6:10:04 to take not only her first title, but her first Top 10 finish in the “Ultimate Human Race”.
Ashworth, founder of the Massmart Running Club in Gauteng, raised her arms in triumph after 90.184km of pain – and glory.
Fellow South African Gerda Steyn finished second in 6:15:34, while Russia’s Alexandra Morozova took the final podium spot in 6:20:21.
The officially measured and certified distance for this year’s “Down Run” event was 90,184km and it was slightly longer than the previous Down Run route. The 2016 route was 89,208km.
Yesterday’s race started at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall with the competitors running down Chief Albert Luthuli Street, heading east. From there they continued along Alan Paton Avenue and then contraflow onto the N3 national freeway.
From there, they glided off right onto the Market Road on ramp and then (turned) left onto the slip road to CB Downes Road and then followed the traditional Comrades route towards Polly Shortts and onwards to Durban.