On Sunday 29th May 19,617 people gathered in the South African city Durban to participate in the legendary Comrades Marathon. Starting at 5:30 am, participants were given twelve hours to reach the city of Pietermaritzburg, and faced ruthless and ever-changing terrains.
This year’s winner was Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi who completed the ultra marathon with an astounding time of 5:32:45. But Muzhingi is only getting started: ‘I want to win nine times and then retire’, he said after finishing first in the 2011 Comrades Marathon.
|Matshipa: ‘I’m really happy with my run. I came here to win the race, but unfortunately 10 kilometres in my body felt weak… I was satisfied with ending second’|
In an extract from his newly published book, Comrades Marathon: The Ultimate Human Race, John Cameron Doe describes the event:
‘The distance and terrain are such as to take the average person to the very limit of human ability in the quest to cover the distance on foot within 12 hours. Nowhere else in the world is there any race quite like it’.
|Comrades Marathon is an annual event, but the route alternates between an ‘Up’ race, which starts in Durban and ends in Pietermaritzburg, covering a distance of 86.96 km; and a ‘Down’ race, which starts in Pietermaritzburg, ending in Durban and covers a distance of 89 km. The race has checkpoints which participants must reach in order to be kept in the marathon, to ensure that the marathon does not take more than 12 hours
Stephen Muzhingi’s coach celebrated this victory: ‘This is an example that hard work pays off. our secret to success was our training schedule, Stephen worked very hard and I am glad he came out tops’.
This ultra marathon is an example of the continuation of The Wild Geese story – Men of Action striving to achieve the impossible. Completion of the Comrades Marathon is extraordinary in itself, but to achieve a time of under six hours and plan to go back for more, to further push physical and mental limits is remarkable. Just as The Wild Geese pushed themselves for the dream of ‘Freedom for Everyone’, these athletes exemplify that working toward a dream is worth the intermediate struggle.
Although hard work and a strict schedule contribute to Muzhingi’s race victory, Muzhingi cites the reason he won the 2011 Comrades Marathon is because ‘Ndine confidence mukoma, I don’t doubt myself’.