Comrades trials and tribulations
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