June 3, 2016 by DAVE JACK
Comrades 2016 is behind us and what better time than now to take a quick look back at the race whilst it is still fresh in our minds and I thought to do it in a few brief summary points.
THE 91ST COMRADES MARATHON
There were 18,597 runners who eventually qualified to run of whom 16,807 made it to the start line and 14,431 crossed the finish line by the time the 12 hour gun was fired at 5:30pm. a failure rate of only a little over 14%. From a personal point of view it was 60 years since I saw my first Comrades in 1956 when Gerald Walsh won and the 58th since then that I have been at in various capacities and I have enjoyed them all.
There were around 7000 novices who tackled Comrades for the first time this year and given the number of runners who didn’t finish and that many of those who didn’t finish were not first timers it means that many of these Novices did win that precious medal. Well done to you all.
The winner was little known David Gatebe running for the Tom-Tom Club who crossed the finish line in a staggering 5hrs 18mins 19secs over 2 minutes better than the Down Run “record set in 2007. David said afterwards that when he was 10km out he could smell the ocean in Durban and said to himself “No one can catch me now”. He ran at an average pace of 3mins 33secs per kilometre for 89kms
COACHES JOHN HAMLETT & LINDSEY PARRY
David Gatebe’s coach John Hamlett (Colonel Coach) grabbed back to back winners with Gift Kehele in 2015 and David in 2016
In the women’s section Lindsey Parry did the same thing with Caroline Wostmann in 2015 and Charne Bosman in 2016.
NUMBER OF MEN’S WINNERS
David Gatebe becomes the 49th winner of a Comrades Marathon in the 91st running of the race that started in 1921.
The winner of the Women’s race was Charne Bosman who took over the lead some 2km from the finish when defending Champion, Caroline Wostman simply couldn’t hold on any longer because of the pain she was in because of leg cramps. Charne finished in second place last year and sat in second place all day this year and struck at exactly the right time to overtake Caroline and go into the lead and the win in 6:25:55.
NUMBER OF WOMEN’S WINNERS
Charne becomes the 24th winner in the women’s section of Comrades since women were first allowed to compete in 1975. The first woman was Betty Cavanagh.
NEDBANK RUNNING CLUB SUCCESS
Before Comrades, Nedbank Running Club Manager, Nick Bester predicted that his club would capture 50% of the gold medals on offer to the first 10 men and first 10 women and he was almost correct. Nedbank took 5 of the men’s gold medals and 4 of the women’s gold medals and settled for 45% of the gold medals which Nick somewhat unhappily told me afterwards was below par.
Nedbank Running Club also won the coveted Gunga Din Trophy in the men’s section for the best combined times on the first four men from any one club.
PRE RACE FAVOURITE SUFFERS CRAMP
Prior to the race there had been enormous pressure on defending women’s champion Caroline Wostmann to repeat her performance of 2015 and after wins this year at Two Oceans and “Om Die Dam” it looked as though she was going to do it and she led until just 2kms from the finish but quite a way before that she had started cramping in the legs and riddled with pain she hung on but was losing time with every step until eventually she could hang on no more and had to give up her lead 2kms from home.
DOWN RUN RECORDS
Whilst technically the times recorded are not “records” and they are in fact “best times” because of changing distances, we are happy to call them records and we’ll continue to do so and David Gatebe’s time this year means that the record books show that both the Down Run records are now back in the hands of South Africans. Frith van der Merwe set the women’s Down Run record way back in 1989 in 5:54:43 and now David Gatebe with his staggering 5:18:19 has the men’s record.
We just need to do something about the men’s Up Run record now!
HAS ALAN ROBB CALLED IT A DAY?
The great Alan Robb who holds more gold medals than any other runner in Comrades with his collection of 12 and his total of 42 completed Comrades in succession since 1974 and his 4 wins in 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1980 decided to call it a day in Drummond this year. He struggled to get the required motivation but entered and ran anyway and when he reached Drummond he realised that “enough is enough” and stopped. I asked him on Monday if this was it and if he would run again and he said it’s very unlikely although he would continue coming to the race. Alan, whether you run or not, we support your decision and we salute you.
Alan incidentally, apart from holding more gold medals than any other runner is the only Comrades winner to have run over 40 times.
The Comrades Medical facility at the finish was the largest temporary facility in the world outside a war zone or disaster area and this year it treated just over 400 runners at the finish and that’s a little under 2.8% of the field.
I spoke to Dr Jeremy Boulter who has been responsible for the medical facility at Comrades for the last 22 years but who has been involved for the last 38 years and he told me that he had 85 trained medical staff including 5 specialists this year. The medical facility at the finish had 3 ICU beds available. Of those stabilised in the facility some had to be hospitalised and 13 of those had to be taken into ICU in various hospitals in Durban.
One interesting medical matter was that in Pietermaritzburg one runner was running on the pavement and he ran onto a manhole cover which flipped up gashed his leg and broke his big toe. The paramedics patched him up and he completed the race in the time limit.
So runners are certainly in good hands with Jeremy and his team.
The Comrades Marathon Association awarded winners’ blazers to three past winners at the prize giving this year and I thought it was a really nice touch. Jackie Mekler, the five time winner in 1958,1960,1963,1964 and 1968, Tommy Malone who won 50 years ago in 1966 and Betty Cavanagh who was the first official women’s winner when the race was opened to women in 1975.
NEXT YEAR AND FUTURE COMRADES
The date for Comrades next year has been set for 4th of June and it was announced that from 2018 Comrades will be on the second Sunday of June every year going forward.