The 93rd edition of the 90.1km Comrades Marathon will be held between Pietermaritzburg and Durban on Sunday.
We take a look at some of the elite contenders for the men’s and women’s titles.
Proving himself as South Africa’s best ultra-distance runner in recent years, Mthembu will be the man to beat. He has finished among the top three on five occasions at Comrades, with four of those performances achieved on the ‘down’ run. The only South African since 1990 to secure victory more than once, he was also a silver medallist at the 2016 100km World Championships, and he will be eager to stand up and deliver once again.
In his five previous attempts at the race, Gatebe has secured only one gold medal, but he made it count by storming to victory on the 2016 ‘down’ run when he shattered the record, crossing the finish line in 5:18:19.
Seemingly better suited to the ‘down’ run, he will be eager to prove himself once more, and if he gets it right, he will be difficult to beat.
Best of the rest
While Mthembu and Gatebe are considered the pre-race favourites, a number of other athletes could pull through to win a wide-open race. Title contenders include former winners Ludwick Mamabolo and Gift Kelehe, as well as Zimbabwean athlete Hatiwande Nyamande, who finished third in last year’s ‘up’ run.
A former national marathon champion, Bosman has established herself as South Africa’s top female ultra-distance athlete over the last few years. After stunning pre-race favourite Caroline Wostmann to win the ‘down’ run two years ago, and having shown good form by securing victory at the 50km Loskop ultra-marathon outside Middelburg in April, she will be confident of challenging for a title defence.
The nation’s latest prospect on the ultra-distance circuit, Steyn finished fourth on the ‘up’ run last year, and after coasting to victory at the Old Two Oceans 56km race in Cape Town in March, she has been tipped as a potential successor to Bosman as she attempts to grab her compatriot’s crown. If she takes a cautious approach to the first half, she could secure the biggest win of her career.
Best of the rest
A handful of contenders have pulled out ahead of the race, including former winners Wostmann and American Camille Herron, marathon specialist Jenna Challenor and Dominika Stelmach of Poland. Various other athletes will look to spring a surprise, however, including debutant Tanith Maxwell, consistent performer Ann Ashworth and Sarah Bard of the US.