Dijana, Steyn score South African double in Comrades ultramarathonSun, 11 Jun 2023 11:58:04 GMT

Tete Dijana and Gerda Steyn completed a South African double by winning the men’s and women’s road races at the Comrades ultramarathon in the southeastern KwaZulu-Natal province on Sunday.Both posted best times in the gruelling annual event, which draws fields of up to 20,000. It began in the inland city of Pietermaritzburg and ended in the Indian Ocean port of Durban.Defending champion Dijana covered the 87.701-kilometre (54.494 miles) ‘down run’ course in 5 hours 13.58 minutes, bettering the 5:18.19 set by fellow South African David Gatebe. Steyn crossed the finishing line at Kingsmead cricket stadium in 5:44.54, shaving nearly 10 minutes off the benchmark set by Frith van der Merwe 34 years ago.  Winning, being the first South Africans home and achieving best times, earned Dijana and Steyn 1.2 million rand ($64,100/59,500 euros) each.Piet Wiersma (5:14.01) from the Netherlands and South African Edward Mothibi (5:17.34) came second and third in the men’s event.Eighth-placed Russian Aleksei Beresnev (5:24.41) was the only other non-South African among the top 10 finishers.”The pace at the start did not suit me — it was too fast, too soon. I waited until halfway through the race before making my move toward the front,” Dijana told AFP.”Winning more than one million rand will come in very handy — most of it will go toward the education of my children.”   Steyn was followed by compatriots Adele Broodwyk (5:56.26) and Carla Milinaro (6:00.23) in the women’s race. Fourth-placed Dominika Stelmach (6:06.02) was the best foreigner.”Knowing my husband and children were on the route watching inspired me. The energy from the crowd was also fantastic. I had to dig deep to get that record,” said Steyn.Runners clock best times rather than records as the distance of one of the oldest ultramarathons in the world varies each year, with factors like road construction affecting the length.The race this year was referred to as a ‘down run’ because Pietermaritzburg is 596 metres above sea level and Durban only eight.Traditionally, the race alternates between ‘up’ and ‘down’ runs, but this was the second in a row to begin in Pietermaritzburg. Runners braved chilly early winter conditions when the race began at 0530 local time (0330 GMT), but within a few hours they were wiping sweat from their brows as temperatures rose.As the competitors sought glory, or just wanted to beat the 12-hour cut-off for a medal in what is dubbed ‘the ultimate human race’, they are greeted by stalls stacked with drinks and food. There were 41,000 litres of cool drinks available, two million sachets of water, 5.6 tons of oranges, two tons of bananas and 1.5 tons of potatoes.