With less than two weeks to go to the 96th Comrades Marathon on Sunday, 11 June 2023, the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has confirmed the following top male and female contenders in this year’s race.
Excitement is building up ahead of the 96th Comrades Marathon which is set to take place on Sunday, 11 June 2023.
The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has officially announced the top male and female contenders for this year’s race. Let’s take a closer look at the leading runners:
- Tete Dijana (Nedbank)– 1st, 2022
Here we find that Dijana has quite the Ultra pedigree. 3rd at the 2020 Om Die Dam, 2nd in the 2022 Nedbank Runified 50km Ultra (2:44:09) and his only other outing at Comrades in 2019 of 47th (6:25:03). Dijana and his training compatriot Edward Mothibi were the last two standing in the 2022 Comrades Marathon after Khonkobe’s blistering assault, racing together from around 20km to go, before Dijana moved away with roughly 10km left and opened a gap of just over 3min on the 2019 champion. Based on his 2:39.04 run at this year’s Nedbank Runified 50km (faster than the official World 50km record of Stephen Mokoka, 2:40.13) and how he flew away from the field in the final kilometre, Dijana is in better shape than he was in 2022. Ominous signs indeed.
- Edward (Slender) Mothibi (Nedbank)– 2nd, 2022/ 1st, 2019
In 2019 when he won the race, he only placed 95th at the Two Oceans Marathon, coming into the finish in 3:53:23. Compare that to the approach of Bongmusa who won the race in 3:08:29. Mothibi was clearly racing on fresher legs. He followed a similar approach in 2022, competing only in the Nedbank Runified 50km in March where he finished 3rd. His next race was Comrades (in August in 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic). In 2023 he again approached his preparations for Comrades in similar fashion, running in the Runified 50km in late February where he finished 3rd with a new personal best of 2:45:27. His marathon personal best of 2:13:54 from 2021 shows there is speed in those legs and he will have to be considered as a challenger for the win again.
- Bongmusa Mthembu (Arthur Ford) – 4th, 2022
He has also finished 2nd and 3rd at the World 100km Championships (2016/2018), finished in the top ten at Two Oceans on three occasions, with a win in 2019. Mthembu’s vast experience came to the fore in the 2022 Comrades Marathon where he let the Nedbank quintet go and ran his own race, gradually carving up the field in the latter stages of the race to finish in 4th.
His approach to the Comrades Marathon in 2023 is vastly different to that of previous years. Mthembu has for the first time in his running career competed in the Om Die Dam 50km which he won in 2:56:33 and will be foregoing the Two Oceans Marathon (15 April), giving his body more time to recover for The Ultimate Human Race. With his vast experience and pedigree and intimate knowledge of the race, Bongmusa Mthembu will be a factor come race day.
- Nkosikhona Mhlakwana (Hollywood Athletics Club) – 6th, 2022
Wins in the 2021 Ultra Trail Drakensberg 62km and Mangosuthu Buthelezi 52km coupled with an 11th at Runified 50km and 16th in the Ultra Trail Cape Town 100km, showed he had developed immensely. But it was his 2022 Two Oceans Marathon second place finish, where he went toe to toe with Ethiopia’s Edndale Belachew and only having to give way to the latter’s faster leg speed on the grass at the finish area at UCT, that Mhlakwana announced his pedigree as an ultramarathoner to be reckoned with. Mhlakwana finished 6th in the 2022 Comrades Marathon. He has chosen to make the 2023 Two Oceans Marathon a big focus and with the 8 weeks recovery available between the two races, Mhlakwana will be looking for a top-ten position in 2023.
- Dan Matshailwe (Nedbank) – 3rd, 2022
But Matshailwe comes with pedigree. A 2:14:06 marathon shows there is some speed in those legs and the Down Run is one that does tend to favour the speedsters. Matshailwe will have learned a substantial amount in training with Mothibi and Dijana and in last year’s race; and will have to be considered as a contender again for a podium position.
- Joseph Manyedi (Nedbank) – 7th, 2022
Just before the Covid Pandemic shut down racing in South Africa, Manyedi was 9th at the Om Die Dam in 2020 and showed his potential a year later at the Nedbank Runfied 50km finishing in 12th.
Manyedi continued his improvement in 2022 by making the top ten at the Runified 50km (9th) in 2022 before going on to come home in 7th in the Comrades Marathon last year. Manyedi is wiser, stronger and more dangerous. At 40 years of age he is still fiercely competitive and will once again be in the mix to challenge for at least a top-10 finish in the 2023 race.
- Mahlomola Sekhonyana (Hollywood Athletics Club) – 4th, 2019
It was this very same quiet preparation that saw him finish 4th in 2019. Sekhonyana is older and wiser and his preparations will be meticulous without any fanfare. Not for him, the posting on social media; it is all about the work he puts in. Under the guidance of Mdu Vura Khumalo, Sekhonyana has developed into a very dangerous adversary for the big day on 11 June.
- Onalenna Khonkhobe (Nedbank)
With the race now officially finishing at Hollywoodbets Kingsmead, the race will be at least 1km shorter than in previous years when the race finished at Moses Mabhida. Chances of the record going are now very high and Khonkhobe could well be instrumental in that. Surprisingly Khonkhobe has no official marathon time with the global statisticians, but his 1:03:13 half-marathon time run in 2022 will give anyone an indication of just what speed this man has at his disposal.
Khonkhobe was 6th in the 2022 Two Oceans Marathon and 2nd at the N12 Ultra 50km in 2022 in the build-up to last year’s Comrades. This year he showed once again that he is in shape by finishing 2nd at the Runified 50km in Gqeberha at the end of February, clocking 2:39:41, also under the previous record set by Stephen Mokoka.
- Gerda Steyn (Phantane Athletics Club)
Steyn has already smashed the Up Run best time when she finished 17th overall and clocking 5:58:53 – some 11 minutes faster than the previous best time set by Elena Nurgalieva (6:09:24).
She missed the 2022 race as she was focusing on the New York Marathon which was only 3 months after Comrades (August last year). But she has made no bones about the fact she will be back this year and has only one objective, to make a massive statement. Few will bet against her not only winning but also shattering Van der Merwe’s Down Run best time.
If she does, then she will have taken the second of Van der Merwe’s long-standing best times after winning Two Oceans in 2022 in a new record time of 3:29:45. Steyn boasts a faster marathon time than Van der Merwe in her heyday (2:27:36). Steyn ran the SA Record of 2:25:28 in 2021 and has also run under 2:27 on two occasions.
- Ann Ashworth (Hollywood Athletics Club)
With her 2:35 personal best and her recent 2:39 run in Seville, Ashworth is one of the fastest ladies in the race and has to be a contender, if not a favourite to once again stand on the podium at Hollywoodbets Kingsmead come 11 June. Winning in 2018, Ashworth clocked 6:10:04, more than 7 minutes faster than the winning time of Alexandra Morozova in 2022.
That and her 2:39 marathon will give Ashworth a big amount of confidence. Ashworth knows the route well, having lived in Durban for a couple of years before moving back to Johannesburg recently. She will have done numerous training runs on the route during her time in Durban and will use that knowledge to her advantage.
- Alexandra Morozova (Russia) 1st, 2022
Her previous three attempts saw her finish second on debut in 2017, third in 2018 and second again in 2019. Morozova boasts a marathon personal best of 2:32:44 and she and Ann Ashworth will more than likely be in a titanic battle for a spot on the podium.
Morozova has an insatiable appetite for racing which could cost her. In 2022 between January and Comrades in August, she raced the marathon four times. So far in 2023, she has already run in the Buri Ram Marathon in Thailand on 21 January (2:36:20), the Khon Kaen Marathon, a mere eight days later and clocked 2:49:07. This after running two marathons in a week in December (all in Thailand). All this racing could well cost her in the long run.
- Dominika Stelmach (Poland) 2nd, 2022
In fact that 80km race, the Ultramarathon ChudyWawryzniec 80km was a mere 15 days before Comrades. One wonders what she could have done had she been on fresher legs. Already in 2023 Stelmach has run a 24-hour race, the Spartanion 24-Hour Race (ISR) on 5-6 January, where she finished 10th.
She boasts a marathon best of 2:36:45 run in 2021. So she too will be a close contestant to Ashworth and Morozova and the battle for the women’s podium may well be more intense than that of the men, so closely matched are the women.
- Adele Broodryk (Nedbank) 3rd, 2022
Not quite as fast as in 2022 where she was seconds off from breaking the record (Broodryk ran 3:23:48), but still fast enough to make a statement that she is once again in shape. The 32-year-old finished in 3:31:10, ten minutes ahead of Annerie Wooding (another contender for Gold in 2023).
It has already been a busy season for Broodryk though after she finished 7th in the Nedbank Runified 50km (3:18:03) and she has confirmed she will be racing in the Two Oceans Marathon. With Comrades back in June as opposed to last year when it was in August, the recovery time between the two premier ultramarathons in South Africa is substantially closer than in 2022. How Broodryk manages that will be of interest but you cannot write off the woman who was the first South African across the line in 2022.
- Galaletsang Mekgoe (Nedbank) 5th, 2022
Mekgoe’s secret to her success was the visualisation she employed in her training as she saw her male compatriots speed off in the distance. Mekgoe was 11th at this year’s Runified 50km, clocking 3:33:23. It may be a bit slower than her time of 2022 (3:30:24), but then Comrades is in June this year as opposed to August from last year, so her preparations will be slightly different. She will no doubt take heart from her run in this years Runified. All indications are that she will once again line up undaunted and will look to make history again.
- Camille Herron (USA) 6th, 2022
In so doing, she not only set a Women’s World Record but also bested the Men’s US 48-hour record. Herron may be competing more and more in the 100mile and beyond arena, though that doesn’t mean she should be discounted from picking up one of the 10 gold medals on offer at this year’s Comrades Marathon.Update: On Wednesday Camille announced she’ll be focusing on Western States and has decides to give Comrades a miss.
The 96th Comrades Marathon will be run on Sunday, 11 June 2023, starting at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall at 05h30 and ending 12 hours later at the Hollywoodbets Kingsmead Cricket Stadium in Durban. The distance will be 87,7km. This will be the 48th Comrades Down Run.