Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

Mphakathi sets sights on Comrades after City to City victory

The City to City ultra-marathon was held for the first time since 2015.

Ntsindiso Mphakathi fired a silent warning at the rest of the elite field ahead of this year’s Comrades Marathon, suggesting he has the strength to go the distance after stunning a strong line-up to win the City to City ultra-marathon between Pretoria and Johannesburg on Sunday.

With a R200,000 winner’s cheque on the line, Mphakathi had to dig deep in the closing stages to shake off his persistent opponents, opening a gap in the final kilometres of the undulating course to take the 50km race in 2:52:28.

Kenyan athlete Jackson Koisenge held on for second position in 2:52:46, with Tebogo Pulusa grabbing third spot in 2:53:46.

Preparing for the 85km Comrades Marathon in June, Mphakathi said he had decided earlier this month to have a crack at the City to City title, and his performance had given him confidence that he could put up a fight at the gruelling annual race in KwaZulu-Natal.

Last year he finished 70th at Comrades in 6:03:08, completing the race for the first time in his career, but he still believed he could put up a challenge up front.

“The way I run, I feel stronger when I climb hills, so I think I can handle it at Comrades because it’s an ‘up’ run this year,” said Mphakathi, who won last year’s 42km Soweto Marathon.

“I was surprised with my result today because I’m in training for Comrades and that’s my focus. I feel motivated now and I won’t be racing again until then.”

Women’s race

In the women’s race, Kenya’s Shelmith Muriuki had it all her own way, and while she admitted afterwards it had taken a lot out of her, she won convincingly in 3:13:04.

Nobukhosi Tshuma of Zimbabwe was next over the line, finishing second in 3:27:11, and Deane Laubscher was the first South African home, ending third in 3:31:33.

“I feel exhausted, but I had to recover from several injuries last year and I struggled a lot, so I’m grateful for the win,” Muriuki said.

Shorter distances

In the 10km contest, Tladi Modube won the men’s event in 29:43 and Regina Ngungu took the women’s race in 33:48

Katleho Monaheng and Lebogang Phalula-Luthuli won the men’s and women’s 5km races, though athletes were left fuming after a marshalling error forced them to cover something closer to seven kilometres. Monaheng stopped the clock at 21:48 and Phalula-Luthuli was officially timed at 24:18.

It was the first time the City to City was held since 2015. Previously one of the country’s most popular and prestigious ultra-marathons, it was scratched for eight years due to a lack of sponsorship, with the Gauteng provincial government coming on board along with various other partners this year to ensure the race returned to the calendar.

Read more on these topics

Comrades Marathon road running

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits