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Athletics | Running

Stephen Muzhingi © Gallo Images

Muzhingi jubilant at winning Comrades

Stephen Muzhingi rejoiced after winning the 2009 Comrades Marathon, from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, in 5:23:26, the second fastest time in history.

The 33 year-old Zimbabwean said he realised after Cowies Hill that he was in with a chance and when he passed defending champion and record holder Leonid Shvetsov he could tell he was in stronger shape and knew then that he could win.

"Coming into the race, my only aim was to run sub 5:30. When I was about 100 metres behind Leonid, I started to relax but when I caught him, I knew I had the race."

He hadn't thought about the record, 5:20:41, set by Shvetsov in 2007, but about three kilometres from the finish, spectators told him he had a chance to go for it, so he ran faster. However, by then it was too late.

Muzhingi, who was third last year, said he always knew he had the potential to be a successful long distance runner, but having a coach has given his running a structure which he didn't have before and having a sponsor means there is now food on the table.

"I'm still confused and don't know what's happening," said the jubilant Muzhingi said after the race.

"I will be investing the money in various businesses in Zimbabwe," he joked.

He hopes to run a few races in Europe next. "Maybe the Zimbabwe government will give me a cash incentive like they gave the Olympic swimmer (Kirsty Coventry)," he said hopefully.

Shvetsov, who was having difficulty walking afterwards, said he wanted to pay tribute to Collen Makaza, the Zimbabwean who set the pace for the first half of the race.

The Russian always believed in running his own race, but when he realised that Makaza was ten minutes ahead of him at the halfway mark, he had to push himself more than he would normally have done to narrow the gap.

"I've always said you have to pace yourself and run your own race but I didn't do it. It's proof that I am human and not invincible."

Shvetsov said he had sinus problems before the race and also experienced a few niggles along the way, which he tried to ignore but he struggled towards the end.

"The last 10km were the hardest 10km of my life. Every little hill felt like Polly Shortts. I even walked twice during the race to try and preserve some energy.

"It was so difficult, I thought I would die," he laughed. He admitted to cramping badly after the race as well but, thankfully, not during the race.

Charles Tjiane, the first South African home, had lead the race after Makaza slowed down but he also faded just before Pinetown and did well to come back and finish third in 5:34:20.


The women's race saw the Nurgalieva twins running neck and neck most of the way but seven kilometres from the end, Olesya broke away from her sister, Elena, to win the race in 6:12:11.

"We ran the Two Oceans six weeks ago so our energy was down. Seven kilometres from the end, we were told that the next person was only three minutes behind us so we went faster," said Elena, who finished in 6:13:13, "but Olesya was stronger than me."

The 33 year-old twins said they would be back again next year as they enjoyed being in South Africa.

"We are not so well-known in Russia and we are happy to live a low-profile, quiet life there," admitted Elena, "but we will continue to race in South Africa and possibly enter the City to City marathon later in the year."

Tatyana Zhirkova finished in third place (6:15:02) and the first South African home was Farwa Mentoor, in fifth place, in 6:45:32.

The cut off time for the "down" run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, is 12 hours.


1 Stephen Muzhingi (Zimbabwe) 5:23:26
2 Leonid Shvetsov (Russia) 5:33:09
3 Charles Tjiane (SA) 5:34:20
4 Fusi Nhlapo (SA) 5:36:16
5 Lucas Nonyana (SA) 5:39:29
6 Mncedisi Mkhize (SA) 5:41:14
7 Bongmusa Mthembu (SA) 5:41:51
8 Peter Molapo (SA) 5:42:24
9 Bethuel Netshifthefhe (SA) 5:43:34
10 Harmans Mokgadi (SA) 5:44.48

1 Olesya Nurgalieva (Russia) 6:12:11
2 Elena Nurgalieva (Russia) 6:13:13
3 Tatyana Zhirkova (Russia) 6:15:02
4 Marina Myshlyanova (Russia) 6:30:41
5 Farwa Mentoor (SA) 6:45:32
6 Lesley Train (SA) 7:01:06
7 Marina Bychkova (Russia) 7:03:23
8 Lindsay Van Aswegan (SA) 7:08:54
9 Belinda Waghorn (SA) 7:09:35
10 Kashmira Parbhoo (SA) 7:16:123


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