Comrades 2016 – Who to watch
If Gift Kelehe can win the 91st running of the Comrades Marathon on Sunday then he will become the first South African since Bruce Fordyce (pictured) to successfully defend the title. Kelehe followed in his brother Andrew’s fast footsteps when he won last year’s Up-run in 5:38:35 to repeat what his older brother had done in 2001. But will it be more difficult for Kelehe to defend his title now that other runners will be watching him? Gift is expecting a tough race and says he has put last year’s win behind him in order to focus on 2016 “There’s nothing easy. It’s gonna come hard. Everyone wants that win, that gold medal. That’s why I’ve put the 2015 win behind me to focus on 2016.”
Some of those runners aiming to topple Kelehe include multiple gold medallist and winner of the 2012 Down-Run Ludwick Mamabolo. Because of his 2012 victory and second place finish in the 2010 Down Run, Mamabolo has become known as a Down-Run specialist of sorts. While he refutes this assertion, Mamabolo does admit that South Africans have performed better on the journey from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. “2016 Comrades is very special. Everybody wants to win it. As South Africans we have dominated the Down Run in many years. I can’t see any foreigner who can win it, especially because we have got four or five athletes who can win the Down Run,” with the last one in 2014 having been won by Bongumusa Mthembu, a man who has a real chance of winning on Sunday. Growing up in KZN Mthembu has the race pumping in his veins. He knows the route exceptionally well and has the added advantage of being coached by former SA Marathon Champion, New York Marathon Champion and Comrades Marathon Runner-Up Willie Mtolo. Mthembu and his training partner Thuso Mosiea, who is a Comrades gold medallist in his own right, will almost certainly feature in the top ten and one of them could win it.
One of those that Mamabolo is tipping as a possible winner is 2013 Champion Claude Moshiywa. Although Moshiywa, who started his running with Diepkloof Athletic Club, won an Up Run from Durban to Piteremaritzburg, he says he’s in great shape. The same sort of shape he was in when he last won the race. “This year I’m, hundred percent fit. I can compare it with 2013. I’m injury-free and mentally strong. I’m looking for a win. I’ve trained. I’ve done everything. I’m looking for a win,” said a confident Moshiywa.
Moshiywa is also mentoring a few promising young athletes who is counting on to break into the top ten or even top three if things go well on the 29th of May. Khumbuilani Zondo, third place finisher at this year’s Old Mutual Om Die Dam 50km ultra marathon is one such athlete. Another is Steven Dikobe, winner of the City to City 50km ultra marathon. Dikobe has been living on a plot outside Pretoria and commuting to the South of Johannebsurg to train with Moshiywa’s group. He says all the money he has spent and all the hardships he has endured have left him hungry to win on Sunday to change his life.
The ladies race is less open. Caroline Wostmann’s dominance over the ultra-marathons in the last 18 months has been plain for all to see. Wostmann won both Comrades and the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon. She has trained well in Graskop in Mpumalanga and has been winning local 21km races at a canter. The only question is: will she be able to stand Frith van der Merwe’s 27-year old record of 5:54:43? Keep an eye out for last year’s runner-up Charne Bosman who is looking in good shape to finish on the podium.