Bongmusa Mthembu and Ann Ashworth secured impressive runaway victories at the Comrades Marathon on Sunday, as South African athletes won the men’s and women’s titles for the third time in four years at the gruelling ultra-marathon in KwaZulu-Natal.
After marshalling the main group for most of the race, controlling the pace at the front of the pack, Mthembu surged down Cowies Hill and broke clear of his last remaining opposition with less than 20km remaining in the 90.1km race.
Maintaining his momentum to the finish, Mthembu gradually extended his advantage to cross the line in five hours, 26 minutes, 34 seconds (5:26:34).
He earned his third victory in the annual contest, and his second on the ‘down’ run between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, completing the race more than eight minutes clear of second-placed compatriot Joseph Mphuthi, who clocked 5:35:09 on debut.
British veteran Steven Way was the first foreign athlete home, finishing third in 5:35:27.
Ashworth, meanwhile, broke away on the stretch through Pinetown, shortly after the brutal Fields Hill drop with a little more than 20km to go, and she held on to secure her maiden title in 6:10:04.
Pre-race favourite Gerda Steyn took second position in 6:15:34, while Russian athlete Alexandra Morozova grabbed third spot in 6:20:21.
Results of the 2018 Comrades Marathon
Men: 1 Bongmusa Mthembu (RSA) 5:26:34, 2 Joseph Mphuthi (RSA) 5:35:09, 3 Steven Way (GBR) 5:35:27, 4 Edward Mothibi (RSA) 5:36:32, 5 Marko Mambo (ZIM) 5:37:49, 6 Gordon Lesetedi (RSA) 5:39:32, 7 Teboho Sello (LES) 5:42:21, 8 David Gatebe (RSA) 5:42:43, 9 Gift Kelehe (RSA) 5:46:50, 10 Nkosinathi Duma (RSA) 5:47:09
Women: 1 Ann Ashworth (RSA) 6:10:04, 2 Gerda Steyn (RSA) 6:15:34, 3 Alexandra Morozova (RUS) 6:20:21, 4 Tanith Maxwell (RSA) 6:20:35, 5 Charne Bosman (RSA) 6:33:08, 6 Sophia Sundberg (SWE) 6:45:24, 7 Devon Yanko (USA) 6:47:44, 8 Sarah Bard (USA) 6:49:05, 9 Carla Molinaro (GBR) 6:50:31, 10 Yolande Maclean 6:52:16