Comrades 2013 Review

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It was a hot and windy day…

Yes, it was a hot and windy day. Apparently, many have said it was the hardest Comrades ‘ever’ with huge head winds, dust and the highest drop out race in the races history.

We must remember though that Comrades now has considerably more entrants than in previous years, over 18,000 this year. Unlike many other ultra’s, the level of inexperienced or first timers is very high, so, as soon as you had some extreme heat and tough conditions, the drop out rate will increase.

Having said that, the difficulty of the day was reflected in both the ladies and women’s times. Although both races were above course record early on, as soon as the heat of the day came and the wind increased pace dropped.

Comrades Marathon is the world’s largest ultra. Taking place in South Africa, the 2013 edition was the 88th running of this iconic race. It is a hilly road course from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, however, the direction alternates each year and this year was the ‘up’ run.

Starting on the coast in Durban, the course stretches 86.96km to Pietermaritzburg at 670m above sea level. Over 18,000 runners tested themselves over the ‘Big Five’; Cowies Hill, Fields Hill, Botha’s Hill, Inchanga and Polly Shorts. From the base of the first hill, Cowies, to the top of Botha’s Hill you climb 502 meters in the space of only 22 kilometers. Any seasoned ‘Comrade’ will tell you this translates into a lot of climbing. The first half of the ‘up’ is challenging, it needs to be respected and paced, any early exuberance will be paid for dearly later on in the day.

It was a day of no real surprises (read my preview HERE). However, without doubt the performance of the day came from my pre race ‘dark horse’ prediction, Jonas Buud. He moved up the field in the latter stages of the race from 36th to 2nd. Quite incredible! He was never in with a chance of catching Moshiywa but if ever a lesson in pacing was needed, Buud provided it.

Claude Moshiywa ran an extremely gutsy run. He obtained a gold medal in 2012 for the ‘down’ run and in 2011 he was 3rd overall for the ‘up’ run. Breaking away and running solo for the final 12+ miles he looked impressive for the duration of the whole race. The only blip coming on Polly Shorts (the final tough climb) when I looked in pain. However, on reflection when we had the opportunity to see all the other runners tackle this final climb, they looked no better. I am sure it was just a combination of the distance covered, the heat, the wind and the gradient. Moshiywa is a real family man and on the finish line he explained how he starts training at 0300 every morning so that he can then go to work and be available for his family in the evening.

Men’s Results

  1. Claude Moshiywa – 5:32:09
  2. Jonas Buud – 5:41:21
  3. Mpesela Ntlosoeu – 5:43:38
  4. Ludwick Mamabolo – 5:45:49
  5. Johannes Kekana – 5:46:27
  6. Henry Moyo – 5:46:52
  7. Joseph Mphuthi – 5:48:00
  8. Mike Fokoroni – 5:50:11
  9. Rufus Photo – 5:51:52
  10. Stephen Muzinghi – 5:52:38

The ladies race without Ellie Greenwood went to the same format of the past eleven years (The only break in this tradition came in 2005 when Tatyana Zhirkova won the race) with sisters, Elena and Oleysa Nurgalieva dominating the race. In the closing stages, Elena who had won the race seven times (now eight) pulled away from her sister to cross the line just less than one minute ahead of her. Without doubt ‘The Twins’ are the queens of Comrades. To perform at such a consistent level for over a decade is without doubt a remarkable achievement.

South African hopes lay with Charne Bosman. Bosman, new to ultra running looked very good early on but in the latter stages the distance and heat took it’s toll and she faded allowing Russian Irina Antropova to take third place almost fifteen minutes behind the twins.

Bosman looked safe for fourth but then my pre race prediction, Joasia (Jo) Zakrzewski produced a remarkable comeback and sprinted around the track to snatch fourth place (a repeat of her 2012 placing) just seven seconds ahead of Bosman.

After the race, Zakrzewski said, “I didn’t know I could sprint but needs must when you’re 150m down with 400m to go!”.

Women’s Results

  1. Elena Nurgalieva – 6:27:09
  2. Olesya Nurgalieva – 6:28:07
  3. Irina Antropova – 6:44:36
  4. Joasia Zakrzewski – 6:53:29
  5. Charne Bosman – 6:53:35
  6. Marina Zhalybina – 6:56:55
  7. Holly Rush – 7:04:21
  8. Melanie Van Rooyen – 7:08:09
  9. Kerry Koen – 7:15:07
  10. Julanie Basson – 7:21:02

Course records:

  • Men: Leonid Shvetsov (Rus) – 5:24:49 set in 2008
  • Women: Elena Nurgalieva (Rus) – 6:09:23 set in 2006