Top Contenders in 2024 Comrades Marathon

The Comrades Marathon has long been known as the unofficial world championships of ultrarunning and this year, a world class international and local field will be lining up outside the Durban City Hall, among more than 20,000 other runners for the 97th Comrades Marathon and 49th Up Run.

The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) hosted its Elite Athletes Media Briefing in Durban today (Friday, 7.6.2024). Among this year’s top contenders will be:

Internationals:

WOMEN

Alexandra Morozova – Russia

Morozova boasts 5 Comrades Marathon gold medal finishes from 5 starts and will be very strong on the Up Run. A former winner having won the race in 2022, Morozova has been on the podium in the top 3 in all but one of her Comrades finishes. Last year she was 6th but still ran her fastest ever time of 6:14:32. Coached by former winner Oleg Kharitonov, Morozova will be in the hunt come race day.

Dominika Stelmach – Nedbank Running Club International (Poland)

With a very strong ultradistance running pedigree and 3 Comrades Marathon gold medals to her name, Stelmach knows how to run the race having achieved a best of 2nd place in 2022 as well as golds on both the Up and Down Runs.

Caitriona Jennings – Nedbank Running Club International (Ireland)

An Irish native that represented her country in the 2012 Olympic Games Marathon, Jennings finished on the podium in 3rd at her first Comrades Marathon in 2019 on the Up Run. She returned last year to Comrades to make it two golds from two starts running a very fast 6:10:26 for 5th.

Andrea Pomaranski – Nedbank Running Club International (United States)

A 41-year-old who hails from the United States of America, Pomaranski boasts a very fast 2:31 marathon from Houston in 2023 and in 2024 has already run under 2:34 for the marathon twice. After a 2nd place finish in last year’s World Championships over 50km, Pomaranski has set her sights on the Comrades Marathon.

MEN

Piet Wiersma – Nedbank Running Club International (Netherlands)

Known as the unknown dutchman at the 2023 Comrades Marathon, Wiersma won the hearts of many South Africans last year where he finished 2nd, a scant 3 seconds behind winner Tete Dijana and smashing the previous course record in a time of 5:14:01. A student who is based in Italy and does all his training in the mountains, Wiersma is coming back hungry to win the Comrades and has specifically focused on added hill training for this year’s Up Run.

Andrew Davies – United Kingdom

Davies is a seasoned and fast marathon runner who boasts a marathon personal best of 2:14:23 from the 2022 Seville Marathon. The 44-year-old Brit will be making his Comrades debut in 2024 and with his speed, could well provide an upset at the front of the race.

Aaleksei Beresnev – Russia

Russian athletes have a rich history with the Comrades Marathon with many running to gold medal finishes and even wins. After a hiatus from the Comrades Marathon, more Russian athletes are starting to make their way back to South Africa and Beresnev is one of them who will be looking to emulate his countrymen. Running 5:24:40 last year to finish 8th after leading for some part of the race, it is said Beresnev much prefers the hills, and the 2024 Comrades Marathon could be the stepping stone of his career.

Alex Milne – Nedbank Running Club International – United Kingdom

Milne ran a very fast 5:31:34 in his debut Comrades last year after an extremely fast last 15km to the finish. In any other year his time would have been good enough for a top 5 finish but was only good enough for 15th last year. With a 2:16:30 marathon personal best from the 2023 London Marathon, Milne has the strength and the speed to mix it up with the men upfront and returns to Comrades hungry for a top 10 finish.

Johan Lantz – Sweden

Lantz is an ultradistance trail runner who hails from Sweden and makes his way to Comrades to run his debut. A very strong runner, Lantz boasts an impressive 5:14:41 from the Tunnel Hill 50 miler (80km) and based off that, and with the race being an Up Run, has the pedigree to challenge for a top 10 finish.

South African And Rest Of Africa Athletes:

WOMEN

Gerda Steyn – Phantane Athletics Club – South Africa

What can be said about Steyn, a two-time Comrades Marathon winner and course best time holder in both the Up and Down Runs, rewriting the record books in winning fashion. On the last Up Run in 2019, Steyn became the first woman to run the Up Run in under 6 hours, taking over 10 minutes off the course best time and finishing an amazing 17th overall in the field. She comes back this year a much stronger and faster athlete and more recently broke her own South African record in the marathon with a world class 2:24:03.

Adele Broodryk – Nedbank Running Club – South Africa

Broodryk is one of the country’s best ultradistance runners and has back to back Comrades Marathon gold medals from her 2 starts, finishing 3rd in 2022 and 2nd last year, also breaking the magical 6 hour barrier with her 5:56:25. Can she improve one better and take the top spot this year?

Galaletsang Mekgoe – Nedbank Running Club – South Africa

One of only two women who are in the same training group as men’s back to back winner Tete Dijana, Mekgoe ran a dream debut back in 2022 finishing 5th and came back even faster in 2023 but finished in the worst position of 11th, just outside the gold medals but in a time of 6:31:18 which would have given her a gold medal in every Comrades to date.

Jenet Mbhele – Xcel Athletics Club – South Africa

A South African Marathon champion, Mbhele surprised many by showing up at Comrades last year having never run further than a standard marathon. The Xcel running club athlete finished 7th in the golds in a very fast 6:27:13 and will look to add another gold medal on the Up Run.

Carla Molinaro – Hollywood Athletic Club – South Africa

Molinaro has 6 Comrades Marathon medals to her name of which two are gold medals. On her last Up Run in 2019, Molinaro ran a time of 7:51:12 to finish 45th amongst the ladies. A lot has changed since then, especially in 2023. Pushing the pace hard at the start of the 2023 Comrades, Molinaro ran the race of her life to finish 3rd, and agonizingly just missing out on a sub 6-hour finish with her time of 6:00:22. She then went on to be crowned World Champion over 50km and returns to this year’s Up Run a much different athlete.

Deanne Laubscher – Nedbank Running Club – South Africa

Laubscher is a strong athlete who represented South Africa in both the World 50km and 100km Championships. She will be looking towards her first Comrades gold medal this year after running a very fast 6:36:55 in last year’s race.

MEN

Tete Dijana – Nedbank Running Club – South Africa

If you don’t know the name Tete Dijana, you have not watched the Comrades Marathon the last two years! Dijana has become a household name in South Africa with victories in the 2022 and 2023 Comrades Marathons, the latter in a new Down Run course best time of 5:13:58. Coached by Dave Adams and part of the very strong Nedbank running club, Dijana’s first Comrades came from his only Up Run in 2019 where he finished 50th. Don’t let that result fool you into thinking he can’t run hills. Dijana is a completely different athlete now and holds a 2:11 marathon, split during the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km where he set a then world record over 50km.

Edward Mothibi – Nedbank Running Club – South Africa

Training partner of Dijana, Mothibi finished 3rd in last year’s Comrades Marathon but returns this year as the defending Up Run champion given his win in 2019 when the last Up Run was run. A very strong athlete who has podiumed in the last 3 Comrades Marathons, Mothibi will be looking to prove that his Up Run win was no fluke and that he can do it again.

Bongmusa Mthembu – Arthur Ford Running Club – South Africa

Mthembu hails from KwaZulu-Natal and is a Comrades Marathon legend having won the race 3 times and obtaining victories in both the Up and Down Runs. The last time the race went up in 2019, Mthembu narrowly lost out on a 4th victory, finishing 25 seconds behind Mothibi. He returns as a monster on the hills and will once again be eyeing out the top of the podium.

Nkosikhona Mhlakwana – Hollywood Athletic Club – South Africa

Nicknamed the pit bull, Mhlakwana is another athlete who hails from the KwaZulu-Natal province and has proven his worth in the Comrades Marathon with a gold in 2022 and 11th and 12th places in 2019 and 2023. On the last Up Run, Mhlakwana fell to the ground with the finish line in sight and went from 9th to 11th. With a 2nd and 3rd place in the Two Oceans, he has the speed and strength to make an impact.

Teboho Sello – Maxed Elite Running Club – Lesotho

Sello has been a name synonymous with South African distance running, stepping onto the podium of all major races around the country except one, the Comrades Marathon which is his favourite event. A former winner of the tough Soweto Marathon, Sello has 4 Comrades gold medals with a best of 5th and ran his Comrades personal best last year where he finished 7th in 5:24:22.

Joseph Manyedi – Nedbank Running Club – South Africa

Manyedi is a former television front runner. He is an ultradistance running specialist as attributed to his 3 Comrades gold medals from the last 3 races. A training partner to double winner Dijana, Manyedi was 5th on the last Up Run.

Dan Matshailwe – Nedbank Running Club – South Africa

A 3rd place finish on his debut Comrades in 2022, Matshailwe chose to focus on the Two Oceans Marathon in 2023 and came so close to winning it with his 2nd place finish after suffering with leg problems for most of the race and then closing the leader towards the end. This year is all about Comrades for Matshailwe who is also part of the Dijana Nedbank training group.

 Keep Kalmer, It’s Just the Comrades!

Some people in South Africa believe that you’re not a ‘real runner’ until you have run the Comrades Marathon, no matter how many national titles you’ve won, or Olympic Marathons you’ve run. Just ask sisters René and Christine Kalmer, who for many years have lit up the South African running scene, from track and cross country, to marathons and shorter ultras… and yet still sometimes feel that their Comrades-running husbands are the ‘real runners’ in the family. But that’s set to change this June. – By Sean Falconer 

The Running Comic

As one of the funniest guys of running in South Africa, Rory Petzer is almost always laughing (in between eating)… except in the 2022 Comrades. He reckons he had nothing to smile about that day! Happily, the 2023 race went much, much better, and now he’s ready to take on the running world. As long as it doesn’t keep him away from his dogs too long, and he can be left in peace to think of his next jokes. Let’s just say there’s a lot going on in this comedian’s head! – By Sean Falconer 

Official 2023 Comrades Pacesetters Announced

On Sunday 11 June, the Comrades Marathon will once again take to the roads between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, for the 96th edition of the Ultimate Human Race. As the thousands of runners tackle the 87.7km route, many will look to the guidance of the official Comrades Marathon Pacesetters to help them reach the finish within their target time, by hopping on to a pacing ‘bus’ led by these pacesetters.

The Comrades Pacesetters are all volunteers who regularly pace in races all over South Africa, under the auspices of one or more of the provincial pacesetting organisations. Being selected as a Comrades Pacesetter is considered a prestigious honour amongst the pacesetting community, and all the selected athletes have proven their pacing ability, fitness and reliability in the months leading up to Comrades. All of the Comrades Pacesetters have run the race a number of times before, and many have paced at Comrades before as well, so they bring a collective wealth of experience to the job.

While unofficial pacing has been part of the Comrades for many years, official pacing busses were first introduced to the race in 2003, with nine-time winner Bruce Fordyce (sub-9 Hours) amongst those first seven pacesetters, who led sub-9, sub-11 and sub-12 buses. Since then the pacing buses have become a big part of the Comrades Marathon, with the sub-12 buses in particular proving hugely popular as runners desperately try to beat the final cut-off, and many bus drivers are known for their singing, chanting and joking, which helps the runners get through the hard kilometres.

Permission Granted
As per strict rules introduced at the beginning of 2019 by Athletics South Africa (ASA), there is a clear difference between ‘pacing,’ which benefits contenders for prizes, versus ‘pacesetting,’ which is aimed at slower, non-contenders. Pacing is only allowed when officially sanctioned by athletics officials (national or provincial), while pacesetting is allowed as long as the race organiser has approved it. In this case, the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) has once again given permission for the official Comrades Pacesetters to carry flags in the Ultimate Human Race, and runners should take note that these are the only official pacesetters in the race.

Each bus driver will carry a distinctive flag denoting their target time, ranging in 30-minute intervals from sub-9 to sub-12, so that runners can easily spot them, hop on the bus of their choice, and rely on the Pacesetter to guide them home on time. This year, for the first time, the CMA has agreed to produce the flags that the bus drivers will carry, and Mr Price has come on board as well to kit the Pacesetters out for the Comrades Expo. (They will still run the race in their club colours.) Modern Athlete magazine is an official media partner of the Official Comrades Pacesetters, and will thus feature the Pacesetters in the mag before and after the race.

Tried and Trusted Pacers
The list of 2023 Comrades Pacesetters once again includes some well-known and highly experienced stalwarts of previous years, as well as a few new faces. Several important factors were taken into consideration in the selection process, including previous Comrades record, knowledge and experience of the route and distance, as well as historical pacesetting record, consistency and ability to lead a group home.

In the list below, they are arranged according to the target time they will be aiming for, and the list includes their name, home province, number of Comrades medals (for completing the race), and the number of times they have officially paced before in the Comrades. (Please note that where it says the runner is making their pacing debut, that pertains specifically to the Comrades. All are highly experienced Pacesetters, with many pacing races under their belts.)

SUB-9:00 (Bill Rowan medal)
Joe Faber (KwaZulu-Natal) – 24 Comrades (3 as Pacesetter)
Lizo Siko (Gauteng) – 3 Comrades (Making pacing debut)

SUB-9:30 (Safe Robert Mtshali medal)
Johan van Tonder (Gauteng) – 20 Comrades (11 as Pacesetter)
Nkosinathi Singonzo (Free State) – 3 Comrades (Making pacing debut)

SUB-10:00 (Robert Mtshali medal)
Maropeng George Mojela (Limpopo) – 12 Comrades (5 as Pacesetter)
Sbusiso Mlangeni (Gauteng) – 5 Comrades (2 as Pacesetter)
Wendy Mangena (Gauteng) – 11 Comrades (Making pacing debut)

SUB-10:30 (Safe Bronze medal)
James Nkosi (KwaZulu-Natal) – 14 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)
Tankiso ‘Moss’ Seabo (Free State) – 5 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)
Youssef Kanouni (Western Province) – 9 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)

SUB -11:00 (Bronze medal)
Jeff Ramokoka (Gauteng) – 22 Comrades (8 as Pacesetter)
Tumo Mokhatla (Free State) – 6 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)
Ashraf Orrie (Western Province) – 7 Comrades (Making pacing debut)

SUB-11:30 (Safe Vic Clapham medal)
Rahuma Lucas Seleka (Limpopo) – 14 Comrades (4 as Pacesetter)
Shaunie Maregele (Western Province) – 16 Comrades (Making pacing debut)
Frans Ramoshaba (Mpumalanga) – 1 Comrades (Making pacing debut)

SUB-12:00 (Vic Clapham medal)
Shahieda Thungo (Gauteng) – 5 Comrades (4 as Pacesetter)
Lazarus Malebana (Gauteng) – 12 Comrades (1 as Pacesetter)
Sibusiso Mthembu (Gauteng) – 4 Comrades (Making pacing debut)

Where to Find the Pacesetters
The Pacesetters for each bus will aim to run the whole race together, and runners looking to join a bus early in the race will find them in the following seeding pens at the race start in Pietermaritzburg:
SUB-9:00 – Front of C Batch
SUB-9:30 – Back of C Batch
SUB-10:00 – Front of D Batch
SUB-10:30 – Back of D Batch
SUB-11:00 – F Batch
SUB-11:30 – G Batch
SUB-12:00 – H Batch

Please note: Given the nature of the challenge of the Comrades Marathon, runners can fall ill or pick up an injury near to race-day, and should there be any changes in the line-up of Pacesetters, Modern Athlete will post updated info on social media, and the provincial pacesetting organisations will also publicise any updates on their platforms.

For more info…
For more info on the official 2023 Comrades Pacesetters, please make contact with Joe Faber, Chief co-ordinator of the 2023 Comrades Pacesetting team, on 072 180 3769 or faberj532@gmail.com.

If you would like to know more about becoming a pacesetter, you can contact one of the pacesetting organisations via their Facebook groups:

This media release was compiled by Sean Falconer, Editor of Modern Athlete magazine. He can be contacted on 083 273 6289 or seanf@modernathlete.co.za. Photo by Tobias Ginsberg.

Dylan Rogers: A Comrades Convo with my Dad

Dylan Rogers is a sports journalist with Johannesburg radio station HOT 102.7FM and part of the Big Joburg Drive Show, which you can catch 3pm to 6pm Monday to Friday on either 102.7FM or streaming on hot1027.co.za. He’ll be running his first Comrades Marathon in August, after accepting a dare from a friend, who has pledged to donate R500 to charity for every kilometre of Comrades that Dylan is able to complete. This is a special podcast where Dylan chats to his Dad ahead of his first Comrades Marathon.