Comrades Marathon

Edward Mothibi at the 2018 Comrades Marathon. Photo: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

Comrades Marathon: Defending champion out to add down run title

On Sunday, defending Comrades Marathon champion Edward Mothibi returns to the event in search of adding the down run title to his CV.

Comrades Marathon

Edward Mothibi at the 2018 Comrades Marathon. Photo: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

On Sunday, defending Comrades Marathon champion Edward Mothibi returns to the event in search of adding the down run title to his already impressive athletic CV.

In 2018 Mothibi made his debut at Comrades with an impressive 4th place finish after fading from 2nd over the final 10km. 

Under the watchful eyes of his coach Dave Adams, the pair worked even harder the following year, resulting in victory. Mothibi was all set to be a household name at the Comrades Marathon, but unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world, and the race was cancelled two years in a row. 

“It was very disappointing when that happened because some of us are in our prime years of our career,” said Mothibi. “We must remember though that it affected the whole world and not just us so I remained positive that one day things will return to normal and now here we are as the race is this weekend.”

In those two years of missed opportunities at the Comrades Marathon, all was not lost, though. 

Mothibi twice smashed his marathon personal best first in 2020 at the Cape Town Marathon, which he emerged victorious in 2:16:47 and then again last year in Cape Town, recording a quick 2:13:54. 

Training going well for defending Comrades Marathon champion

Comrades Marathon
After a two-year coronavirus-forced hiatus, the 95th Comrades Marathon will take place on Sunday. A look at the medals on offer to runners. Photo: Gallo Images

This year Mothibi finished third at the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km, but the focus has always been solely on the Comrades Marathon. A high-altitude training camp in Rustenburg and Dullstroom, together with some of his Nedbank running club teammates also in the search for gold has gone well, and Mothibi who is known by the nickname ‘slender’ believes that he is ready for Sunday.

“The training has gone very well and I’m looking forward to the race day,” says Mothibi. Asked which he prefers between the down run and the up run as some runners excel better in a particular direction, both according to him were the same. 

“Honestly between the two there is no difference for me. Once you have done your training perfectly, the downs can hammer your legs and the up run you continuously working hard so to me it is both the same.

“With many of the traditional Comrades runners having not run the race over the last 2 years and focussed on their marathon times resulting in faster times, Mothibi believes that this year’s race will be a quick one.

“I think that the race is going to be fast not just because a lot of us have gotten quicker but there are a lot of youngsters now coming to Comrades who will make the race interesting and don’t forget that athletes are very hungry due to the Covid19 pandemic,” said Mothibi. Records can always be broken but it is victories that forever remain and David Gatebe’s 5:18:19 2016 record could come under threat should all the stars align on race day and conditions are good. When asked if the record is the aim, coach Adams smiles. “The main thing that we want to do is cross the line first again,” said Adams. “We have prepared well and know our strategy that we will be sticking to. If the race is going to be tactical, we will be there and if the race goes out fast then we have also prepared for that.”

Backing the champion

On whether Mothibi can become a back-to-back winner, Adams is confident of his athlete.

“We did not change too much to the program but did a lot of strength conditioning and remember that Edward is coming back to Comrades a much quicker athlete. I won’t say the times but there is a hill session that we do and by the end of the set, I can tell you if the athletes will have a good run at Comrades. Let me just say that not only Edward, but several of his Nedbank teammates ran times on the hill that we have never seen before so all of us are looking forward to Sunday.”

Whilst there are a host of athletes that will be keying off Mothibi for a perfect race and looking to win, Mothibi does not look at others and feel threatened. “I don’t like to look at others and worry about who is there as I focus just on myself and my own confidence,” said Mothibi. “We have all been away from Comrades for 2 years so everyone stands a chance of doing well so it’s very unpredictable.”

Whilst humble, Mothibi is ruthless on the road and prefers to let his legs do the talking. 

“We are all looking forward to race day and my teammates are all in shape so let us go out there and show how hard we have been working for this. We would like to also thank all our sponsors of team Nedbank for the support they have shown us not only for our camp this year but in the 2 years that Covid19 took away from us.”

Nick Bester-National Manager of the Nedbank Running Club is incredibly positive for this year’s Comrades.

“We went the extra mile to make sure our athletes are ready to put up a great show at this year’s epic race between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

“We supported several training camps and athletes across South Africa and in Africa at our Nedbank Running Club and I am sure the athletes will not let us down”