Durban based Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi won his third consecutive Comrades marathon leaving all runners in his wake over the last 14km to finish in Five hours 32 minutes 45 seconds.
It was Muzhingi’s Bluff Meat Formula One club mate, Samuel Pazanga who led almost 13000 runners out of Durban cresting Cowies Hill and dropping through the first hot spot in 59 minutes 56 second to earn an R8000 bonus.
The chasing duo of Wellington Chidodo, and Wesley Ruto were a minute adrift with Point Chaza looking strong in forth.
A group of ten including Muzhingi, Fanie Matshipa, Frans Chauke and Petros Sosibo were five minutes off the pace and clearly attempting to pressurize the champion. He was having nothing of it and was clearly running to the pre-race strategy he and team manager Cliffie Chinnasamy had planned.
Heading on towards Hillcrest Pazanga, who had to finish to keep the bonus, was falling back and Chaza took control.
Behind there were dramatic changes taking place as the true contenders climbed the positions.
Matshipa and Muzhingi moved into fourth and fifth clearly aware that his club colleagues were chasing the Drummond Hot Spot for the Road Traffic Fund’s R11000 incentive.
Chaza flew through half way in 2:36:19 with Muzhingi and Matshipa trailing by over eight minutes. The duo were joined by Teboho Sello and Butiki Janties, and last years novice Ludwick Mamabolo in tenth a minute further behind.
Only nine minutes separated the first and tenth runners with Nedbank’s Claude Moshiywa scything his way from 47th in Pinetown to eleventh at Drummond. Sweden’s Jonas Budd, the four time winner of Davos 78km mountain race, moved in to the top twenty as the leader of the European Challenge.
As the Bluff Meats Hot Spot winners now dropped back to secure their finish, Matshipa had a shoulders lead over the champion through the Camperdown checkpoint and the pair were inseparable through to Lion park.
Muzhingi pushed the turbo-booster on the downhill to the Tumble Inn which signals the commencement of Little Polly’s, and by the top of Polly Shortts the Champion had opened one and a half minutes to secure his place in history as only the fifth male to win three consecutive Comrades marathon. Only Arthur Newton, Dave Bagshaw, Alan Robb, and Bruce Fordyce have achieved this in the 90 years of the race.
“We were running at three minutes a K for half the race: After I managed to drop Fanie (Matshipa) I knew the race was over but I had to slow the pace on Polly Shortts,” said the 35 year old.
“ I had thoughts of breaking the record at the back of my mind, but Polly’s took too much. I just slowed for the last run in.”
Matshipa stuck to his task to finish in 5:34:29 to add the first South African award to his second place.
Claude Moshiywa continue his charge moving into third before Camperdown while Gift Kelehe, the brother of 2001 winner Andrew, stormed the section from Camperdown but was unable to hold off the late drive from Buud, and had to settle for fifth place.
The Swede was fourth and first novice in five hours 42 minutes 44 seconds.
Ex kwazulu Natal runner, Brian Zondi, received a rapturous welcome around the stadium to finish ninth, but the premiers award went to tenth placed Mncedisi Mkhize who closed out the Gold medals in 5:51:17.
The Formula One Bluff Meats club is looking to taking Muzhingi to the World 50km Cup in Netherlands later this year, where they hope he can take the title that Collen Makaza won in 2010.
As expected the Nurgalieva twins again dominated the ladies race going through half way in three hours four minutes and 13 seconds.
Although initially trailing Britain’s Lizzy Hawker, a motivated Farwa Mentoor moved into third before Drummond and was only four minutes adrift at half way. Hawker crossed the mat in 3:10:41 with American Kami Semick and Canadian based Scot Ellie Greenwood following in fifth and sixth less than a minute later.
Adinda Kruger was the next South African and Richards Bay’s Melanie van Rooyen was in tenth going into Drummond, but the fight for the lower golds was still to unfold.
Olesya took the Cowies Hill hot spot while they swapped roles for Drummond and then back to Olesya for the final R16000 bonus at Camperdown, which they hit in four hours 22 minutes 27 seconds. Mentoor still held third but was now five minutes from the lead and Semick had moved to fourth with Greenwood two minutes later and Hawker managing to hold on to sixth.
Elena had a meager 24 second lead over her sister at the finish which she crossed in 6 hours 24 Minutes and 11 seconds. This was her sixth win and eight gold medals out of nine starts became the first women to win five races.
“This was the hardest of all my races,” said Elena who now has nine gold medals. “I had an upset stomach from early in the race.”
Ultra trail runners had their day in the top golds. Both Semick and Greenwood accounted for Mentoor to take third and fourth but the Cape based athlete maintained her position as first South African finishing in fifth in 6:35:49.
Russian Irina Vishnevskaya, repeated her sixth of last year, graduating from ninth at Camperdown to finish in 6:42:07.
Nine time winner Bruce Fordyce who had gone in search of silver was this years first recipient of the Bill Rowan medal missing his goal by a mere 30 seconds.
There were four Wally Hayward medals awarded to Michael Wardian (5:52:51; Nedbank/ USA), Bongmusa Mthembu (5:53:02; Mr Price, KZN), Simon Peu (5:55:46; Bonitas, CG) and Johan Oosthuizen (5:55:58; Anmar BRS Striders, Mpumalanga)
Of the 19617 runners who entered the race 16500 qualified to run, 14242 registered & collected Goodie bags and12637 runners crossed the start mat in Durban and 11068 finished in the twelve hour cut off.
Top 10 Men Finishers
1 Stephen Muzhingi (Formula 1 Bluff Meats/ Zimbabwe) 5:32:45
2 Fanie Matshipa (Samancor/ EP) 5:34:29
3 Claude Moshiywa (Nedbank/ GN) 5:42:05
4 Jonas Buud (Nedbank. Sweden) 5:42:44
5 Gift Kelehe (Toyota/ CG) 5:43:59
6 Chasara Masiyatsva (Nedbank/ GN/ Zimbabwe) 5:44:33
7 Ludwick Mamabolo (Mr Price/ CG) 5:50:17
8 Charles Tjiane (Mr Price/ CG) 5:50:46
9 Brian Zondi (Toyota/ CG formerly KZN) 5:51:08
10 Mncedisi Mkhize (Mr Price/ KZN) 5:51:17
Top 10 Women Finishers
1 Elena Nurgalieva (Mr Price/ Russia) 6:24:11
2 Olesya Nurgalieva (Mr Price/ Russia) 6:24:35
3 Kami Semick (Nedbank/ USA) 6:26:24
4 Ellie Greenwood (Nedbank/ Scotland) 6:32:46
5 Farwa Mentoor (Bonitas/ CG) 6:35:49
6 Irina Vishnevskaya (Nedbank/ Russia) 6:42:07
7 Lizzy Hawker (Nedbank/ GBR) 6:48:28
8 Adinda Kruger (Nedbank/ GN) 6:49:01
9 Kerry Koen (Nedbank/ CG) 6:56:20
10 Riana van Niekerk (Mr Price/ CG) 6:56:38
11 Helga Mathee (Nedbank/ SWD) 7:07:15