Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 160 August 2023 | Page 20

The Good , The Bad

and the Ugly

The 2023 Comrades Marathon will live long in the memory … unfortunately , for both good and bad reasons . We saw records tumble and many great chapters added to the rich history of the Ultimate Human Race , but we also saw controversy before the race , during the race , and especially after the race . That was the good and the bad . Sadly , we saw the ugly side of the running community as well . – OPINIONS BY SEAN FALCONER

The Good

the final straight to hold off fast-closing Dutch novice Piet Wiersma , but 2022 Comrades winner Tete Dijana held on for the win and made history . It made him a back-to-back winner of two consecutive Down Runs , and he also set a new race record by clocking 5:13:58 , improving on the 5:16:19 run by David Gatebe in 2016 .
Hayward ’ s record of finishing the race a few months short of his 81st birthday in 1989 . Johannes finished in 9:26:09 , well inside the top third of finishers , and also earned his permanent Green Number 55651 for completing his 10th Comrades . He ran his first in 2006 , at age 64 , and posted his best time of 7:57:11 in 2007 .

With some 16,000 runners starting the race , we saw a world-class field of ultra-athletes set a blistering pace in the elite race , while a number of wellknown stalwarts were back for their annual Comrades journey . Those watching on television , were for the most part , treated to an enthralling spectacle .

Tete Triumphs Again …
It required an almighty effort in the closing kays , many a twisted look backwards and a little sprint in
Glory Day for Gerda …
Running most of the race unchallenged , Gerda Steyn clocked a scintillating 5:44:54 to finally take down Frith van der Merwe ’ s 34-year-old women ’ s race record of 5:54:43 . This means Gerda becomes the fourth woman to hold both the Up and Down race records at Comrades at the same time , having clocked 5:58:53 to win the 2019 Up Run . Furthermore , having broken the Two Oceans race record in both 2022 ( when she beat Frith ’ s 33-year-old mark ) and again in 2023 , she joins Frith as the only two women to hold the Comrades and Two Oceans records at the same time , and she is just the fourth woman to win both races in the same year .
Still More Records …
It should be remembered that this year ’ s route was one of the shortest in the race ’ s history at 87.7km . Nevertheless , notable records were set as all 10 male gold medallists broke 5:30 for the first time ever , and two women dipped under six hours in the same race for the first time . This was also the first time since 1988 that both men ’ s and women ’ s race records fell in the same year – back then the champions and recordbreakers were Bruce Fordyce and Frith .
Wally ’ s Record Goes …
At age 81 , Johannes Mosehla became the oldest Comrades Marathon finisher , breaking the late Wally
Getting Close to 50 …
Barry Holland came home in 10:58:14 to earn an unprecedented 49th consecutive medal , and looks set to become the first runner to reach 50 Comrades finishes in 2024 . After missing last year ’ s race due to injury , Louis Massyn was back this year and claimed his 48th medal in 11:41:33 . Vic Boston made it 45 medals , putting him in joint-third on the all-time list with Dave Rogers .

The Bad

There were a number of problems or issues at this year ’ s Comrades – frighteningly , some were potentially fatal – and the post-race mud-slinging was the worst I have ever seen after a Comrades . Some of these issues are unpacked in more detail elsewhere in this mag , notably the safety issues , but these are my ‘ picks ’ of the bad stuff .
Chaotic Start Scenes …
With a sound system not working properly , a dearth of security officials or volunteers to control
Images : Courtesy Comrades Marathon , Nedbank Running Club , The Running Mann
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