Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist


Title contenders: Top athletes to watch at the Comrades Marathon

Tete Dijana and Gerda Steyn lead the list of favourites for the men's and women's titles.


Nearly 18,000 runners have entered the Comrades Marathon, but only a small percentage will have a chance of securing victory in Durban on Sunday.

Strong men’s and women’s elite fields have been unveiled, however, and spectacular contests are expected in the chase for the prestigious crowns at the 87km race, with some athletes standing out among the pre-race favourites.

Men

Tete Dijana

After earning his maiden Comrades win last year, Dijana went on to set an African 50km record (2:39:04) at the Nedbank Runified race in Gqeberha earlier this season.

He is running Comrades for only the third time in his career, but he proved last year he has the class to overcome whatever he lacks in experience.

ALSO READ: Comrades Marathon at a glance: A look at the race by numbers

Bongmusa Mthembu

A  three-time winner of the race, Mthembu has finished among the top three on seven occasions since 2010.

A double medallist at the 100km World Championships and a former winner of the TotalSports Two Oceans ultra-marathon in Cape Town, he has the experience and the pedigree to blow the entire field apart.

Bongmusa Mthembu, Comrades Marathon
Bongmusa Mthembu is targeting his fourth Comrades victory. Picture: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

Edward Mothibi

Supremely consistent, Mothibi has finished in the top four in all three of his previous Comrades outings, including his victory on the ‘up’ run in 2019.

Holding a standard marathon personal best of 2:13:54 and a 50km career best of 2:45:27, he is one of the quickest athletes in the field and he will be confident of his chances.

ALSO READ: Five things to know about the 2023 Comrades Marathon

Other contenders

Dan Matshailwe, who was third last year and went on to take second place at the Two Oceans in April, will be difficult to beat. Onalenna Khonkhobe, who blew his race by rocketing through the first half last year, will also be in the hunt if he can stick to a wiser pace after displaying fine form over shorter distances this season.

Women

Gerda Steyn

Already the holder of the ‘up’ run record (5:58:53), Steyn is expected to challenge Frith van der Merwe’s ‘down’ run mark of 5:54:43 which has stood for 34 years.

After breaking her own record at the Two Oceans 56km race in April, the Olympic marathon runner lines up as the firm favourite in the hunt for her second Comrades title.

Gerda Steyn, Comrades Marathon
Gerda Steyn celebrates her victory after breaking the Comrades ‘up’ run record in 2019. Picture: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

Alexandra Morozova

Morozova just keeps getting better, having finished among the top three in all four of her attempts at the race, culminating in an impressive victory last year.

If Steyn is at her best, she might struggle to keep pace, but if the South African falters in the latter stages, the Russian athlete could be waiting to pounce.

ALSO READ: Fordyce’s Comrades tales: Some superstitions do work

Adele Broodryk

Turning heads with a sterling performance on debut last year, Broodryk held on to take third position after making a rookie error by pushing the pace too hard.

The Om Die Dam ultra-marathon champion may have produced a stunning surprise last year, but she will line up among the favourites this weekend.

Other contenders

Ann Ashworth, who won the race in 2018; Polish athlete Dominika Stelmach, who took the runner-up spot last year; and Caitriona Jennings, the Irish national 100km record holder, will all be confident of challenging near the front of the race. Galaletsang Mekgoe will also want to make another statement after taking fifth position last year.

NOW READ: Running the Comrades Marathon is not cheap, so where does your money go?

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