South African athletes dominated the Comrades Marathon for the second year in a row on Sunday, with David Gatebe smashing the men’s ‘down’ run record and Charne Bosman winning a hard-fought women’s race between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
Gatebe, a former winner of the Two Oceans ultra-marathon, broke away from a small lead group early in the second half and never looked back.
After charging down Field’s Hill, his stride never faltered and he coasted around the Kingsmead field to cross the line in 5:18:19.
He chopped more than two minutes off the nine-year-old record of 5:20:49 held by Russian athlete Leonid Shvetsov.
“I told my coach (John Hamlett) I wanted to break the record, and I was thinking with about 35km to go that it was now time to go for it,” Gatebe said.
“I was feeling well, and I know anything can happen, but I did not look behind. I just checked my pace and knew nobody could catch me.”
Former winners Ludwick Mamabolo (5:24:05) and Bongmusa Mthembu (5:26:39) finished second and third in a fast race.
Bosman, meanwhile, launched a late attack, storming past Caroline Wostmann as they approached the finish to secure her maiden ultra-marathon victory in 6:25:55.
Last year’s winner, Caroline Wostmann, pushed the pace in the first half as she chased a sub-six hour performance.
In the latter stages, however, she suffered from cramps, and using a run-walk strategy was able to reach the finish.
Receiving word on the road that her compatriot was struggling, Bosman put her head down and gave it everything she had, taking the lead with less than 3km to go.
Wostmann held on, despite collapsing at one point, to cross the line in second place in 6:30:44.
Debutant Kajsa Berg, who admitted she knew very little about the challenging 89.2km course before the race, did well to end third in 6:39:04.