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Canada’s Catrin Jones snags top 10 Comrades finish

South Africa's Gerda Steyn smashed the "up" course record by more than 10 minutes

Catrin Jones of Victoria finished an impressive ninth at the Comrades Marathon today, her 6:52:44 time well within the 7-hour goal she had set for herself in her first crack at the 87K ultra in South Africa.

“This years race had some incredible competition, and although my top goal was to cross that line with a red rose, which is given to all top 10 athletes, I was mostly focused on enjoying this experience from start to finish,” Jones told us by email after the race. “I had an idea of pacing, but I rarely looked at my watch the whole race. Time was somewhat irrevelant with such an undulating course…

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Catrin Jones & Calum Neff before Comrades 2019. Photo: Facebook

“To be honest, I am happy this was an “up” year, as I excel in uphills more than down, and during the downhill portions of the second half my quads were definitely feeling a bit wobbly!

“What struck me as the hardest part of my day was the fatigue I encountered for a huge portionof my race. Not leg fatigue from racing, but sleepy, jetlag fatigue. Luckily, there was cola en route, and I managed to wake up a little more in the latter portion of the race.
“Overall, my body held up quite well. Despite some wicked climbs, I felt strong.
“Crossing in ninth, a gold medal, was incredible. Certainly one of the most memorable races I have ever done. And, to top it off, the incredible performance of Gerda Steyn made the day that much more special.”

 

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Winner Gerda Steyn of South Africa, who finished second last year, demolished Iena Nurgalieva’s “up” course record (6:09:23) from 2004 by more than 10 minutes with her 5:58:53 finish today. It’s the first time a woman has ever gone sub-6 on the uphill course. Alexandra Morozova of Russia, who was second in 2017 and third last year, finished second, in 6:17:40, and Caitriona Jennings of Ireland was third, in 6:24:12.

Winner Gerda Steyn of South Africa, who finished second last year, demolished Iena Nurgalieva’s “up” course record (6:09:23) from 2004 by more than 10 minutes with her 5:58:53 finish today. It’s the first time a woman has ever gone sub-6 on the uphill course. Alexandra Morozova of Russia, who was second in 2017 and third last year, finished second, in 6:17:40, and Caitriona Jennings of Ireland was third, in 6:24:12.

Calum Neff, who is Canadian but lives in Houston, finished in 40th place, in 6:18:25, in his second consecutive year at this race. (He finished 31st last year, a “down” year.)

Edward Mothibi won the men’s race by only 25 seconds, in 5:31:33 in only his second outing (he was fourth last year). Defending champion Bongmusa Mthembu of South Africa (who won the 56K Two Oceans Ultramarathon in Capetown last month) was second, in 5:31:58. 100K world record-holder Nao Kazami of Japan finished third, in 5:39:16. This was Kazami’s first time racing Comrades.

Comrades women’s results 2019. Photo: Facebook

Jones is a veteran of the BC trail and road scenes who has eased back into racing since having her daughter, Elodie, who is now two. “I’ve been wanting to go for years and thought about it many times,” says Jones, inspired by her friend, the much-decorated ultrarunner Ellie Greenwoodwho won Comrades in 2014. Jones won last year’s Squamish 50K and Whistler 30K, and finished third at the 2018 BMO Vancouver Marathon.

American ultrarunner Sage Canaday finished an impressive 21st, in 6:02:10. Camille Herron, who won the race in 2017, struggled with an injured hamstring and left the course after about 52K.

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The race, which is notoriously hilly, alternates directions between Durban City Hall and the Scottsville race course in Pietermaritzburg each year, and as a glance at the course’s elevation profile reveals, either the first half runs steeply uphill or the second half runs steeply downhill, depending on which direction you’re running (though the other half the course is also extremely hilly). This was an “up” year–which some runners find less difficult than a “down” year, which may be even harder on the legs.

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According to a report in South Africa’s Sunday Times, there was some consternation during the weekend leading up to the race when Athletics South Africa told 69 Russian runners, including second-place finisher Morozova, that they were banned from the race and could not run. The ruling stemmed from the banning of the Russian Athletics Federation by the IAAF amid widespread doping allegations in 2015. The ASA later backed off when informed that the runners are amateurs and not members of the federation.

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