The annual Comrades Marathon took place in Durban at Kingsmead Cricket Stadium on Sunday 11 June, where two of SA’s champion ultramarathon runners set new records for the down-run, both winning their second Comrades titles.
Gerda beats Frith van der Merwe’s 1989 record
Gerda Steyn, now dubbed SA’s “premier marathon and ultramarathon runner”, bested Frith van de Merwe’s 1989 time by 10 minutes this year, coming in at 05:44:54 for the down-run and securing her second Comrades win since her last record-smash for an up-run in 2019.
𝗚𝗘𝗥𝗗𝗔 𝗦𝗧𝗘𝗬𝗡 👑🇿🇦
Two Oceans Marathon ✅
Comrades Marathon ✅
Gerda smashes the Comrades down run record in 05:44:56! 💥
— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) June 11, 2023
According to reports by News24, Steyn says that she woke up feeling good about the day ahead but tried not to think about breaking any records.
“I didn’t want to talk about the record too much. I didn’t want it to phase me or distract me from my main goal of winning the race. The Comrades is long, and you can’t think about these times.”
She may not have been focused on setting records, but Gerda smashed the down-run beating Frith van de Merwe’s time in 1989 by a remarkable 10 minutes. She says:
“It felt today like I had the entire country screaming my name from start to finish. I can’t describe how that made me feel. I wanted to run well today – not just for me, but for everyone who was watching or who was perhaps being inspired by this.
“I want people to see that running is just awesome and the fact that we’ve got Comrades here in our country is magic. I run in that way to acknowledge the crowds and I want to inspire them.”
Tete Dijana takes first place in men’s race
Tete Dijana, who won the Comrades Marathon in 2022, took first place in the men’s race this year, beating David Gatebe’s 2016 run by four minutes, coming in at 05:13:58.
According to News24, Tete was in tears over his record win, explaining that the prize money would go towards his children:
“It was only in the last 5km that I started thinking about the record,” said Tete.
“I’d like to dedicate this to my coach and my kids. My coach is actually not well, and he couldn’t be here today. He has always believed in me.”
“I’ve been away from my kids for two months, so this is for them.”
That winning moment!
Tete Dijana wins back to back Comrades Marathons.
A lot closer than it looked a while ago as Piet Wiersma comes home in 2nd.
Kingsmead on its feet!
— Lloyd Burnard (@LloydBurnard) June 11, 2023
SA’s Comrades champions for 2023 both collected a total of R1.2 million in prize money for their achievements. R500k went towards each for their wins, R500k towards their record breaks, and an additional R200k for breaking the record as South Africans.
With R2.4 million going to Gerda and Tete, the Comrades sees its biggest payout in history.
Feature Images: Getty