Com­rades tri­als and tribu­la­tions

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - BERNADETTE WOL­HUTER

BONG­MUSA Mthembu might not have plans for the R425 000 he won in this year’s Com­rades Marathon, but his son does.

Asked yes­ter­day what he would do with his win­nings, Mthembu said “it is not about the money”, but his son Sisanda told The Star’s sis­ter pa­per, The Mer­cury, that he hoped his fa­ther would “do nice things” for him.

And first pri­or­ity for the 12-year-old was ed­u­ca­tion. “I hope I get to go to a good school,” he said.

The first man to cross the fin­ish line in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg yes­ter­day, Mthembu com­pleted this year’s Com­rades – an up-run – in an im­pres­sive 5:35.34.

The crowd roared as the KwaZulu-Natal local came bolt­ing to­wards vic­tory, but his gaze was fixed on one among them – his son. As soon as he was through, Mthembu opened his arms and a beam­ing Sisanda leapt into them.

In years to come, the roles might be re­versed, as Sisanda said he hoped to fol­low in his dad’s foot­steps.

“One day I’m go­ing to run the Com­rades just like him,” he said. “And I hope to win.”

Mthembu said af­ter the race that Sisanda was his first­born. “And I’m try­ing to be his role model,” he said.

But Sisanda wasn’t on his own yes­ter­day; Mthembu’s whole fam­ily came out to sup­port him. “And I come from a big fam­ily, there are about 15 of us.”

Hail­ing from Bul­wer, in ru­ral KZN, the 33-year-old also won Com­rades in 2014.

That year, it was a down­run and he is the first black South African to have won both an up- and down-run.

Mthembu said he wanted to pro­mote ru­ral ath­letes. “The talent is there,” he said.

Of yes­ter­day’s race, he said he had “a plan”.

Fel­low first place win­ner Camille Her­ron, 35, of the US, had other plans.

“I have my hus­band Con­nor here. I love to party. I’m a home-brewer and I like my beer. I’m sure we’ll def­i­nitely have a good time – my hus­band’s Ir­ish too,” she laughed.

Her­ron first at­tempted Com­rades in 2014, but that year she had to pull out be­cause she was sick.

Af­ter yes­ter­day’s race, an emo­tional Her­ron said she had to pick her­self up sev­eral times.

She was in vis­i­ble pain for much of the race but in an awe-in­spir­ing show of per­se­ver­ance, she pushed through to be the first woman home in a time of 6:27.35.

She said her ham­strings were both­er­ing her dur­ing the race. “But I fought with all my heart,” she said.

The sec­ond man home was Hati­wande Nya­mande of Zim­babwe and the third was South Africa’s Gift Kelehe.

The sec­ond woman home was Alexan­dra Moro­zova of Rus­sia and the third South Africa’s Charné Bos­man.

As the fin­ish of the 92nd Com­rades drew near, those still on the fields of Scottsville made a bee­line for the end.

Some stuck their necks out a lit­tle fur­ther, many winced as they tried to push through the pain.

Be­ing di­ag­nosed with a de­bil­i­tat­ing con­di­tion would be enough to dev­as­tate any per­son, par­tic­u­larly an ath­lete.

But for Swiss run­ner Jas­mine Nu­nige – run­ning Com­rades for the first time with the Ned­bank Run­ning Club – who was di­ag­nosed with mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis (MS) in 2011, Com­rades was just an­other ob­sta­cle for her to sur­mount.

Nu­nige, who is 43 – fin­ished in fifth place in the women’s race in a time of 6:46.21.

She said it had been a good race un­til 50km, when she be­gan ex­pe­ri­enc­ing tummy prob­lems. She was happy with her time, but was ini­tially con­cerned about how she might fare be­cause of the high tem­per­a­tures along the route.

“I was a lit­tle afraid (be­cause of my con­di­tion). Hills are not the best when you have this (MS), but I tried not to think about it.”

Nu­nige rep­re­sented Switzer­land at the 1994 Win­ter Olympics as a cross-coun­try skier.

Run­ning, she said, had helped her deal with her med­i­cal prob­lems.“It’s also good for the mind. It helps me cope. I find in­ner strength for my bat­tle against MS.”– Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Kam­cilla Pil­lay


SET­TING OFF: Run­ners at the start­ing line of the 2017 Com­rades Marathon at Dur­ban’s City Hall yes­ter­day.

BRAVE­HEART: Jas­mine Nu­nige

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