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Runner collapses and dies at Comrades Marathon

This was Mzameleni Mthembu's first Comrades Marathon, but he was an experienced ultrarunner

Photo by: Mzameleni Mthembu/Facebook

On Sunday, at the return of the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon, The Comrades, a South African runner died after collapsing on the 90 km route from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, with only 12 kilometres left in the race. The details of his death have not been confirmed.

“It is with a heavy heart (that we) announce the passing of Hollywoodbets Athletics Club athlete Mzameleni Mthembu, from the Toti branch, who was doing the Comrades Marathon yesterday,” reported South Africa’s Sunday Times. “Mthembu had complications along the route, collapsing in Pinetown. He was taken to nearby Westville Hospital, where he sadly passed away.”

Mzameleni Mthembu running at the Prince Mangosuthu 50 Ultra Marathon. Photo: Hollywoodbets Athletics Club

Mthembu, 43, was part of the Hollywoodbets Athletics Club, which is one of the biggest recreational and professional running clubs in South Africa, with hundreds of members.

He began running in 2017, and had a lot of running experience, completing multiple marathons and ultras in KwaZulu-Natal province.

Mthembu was one of almost 16,000 runners who participated in the iconic endurance race, which took place for the first time in two years following the lifting of South Africa’s COVID-19 restrictions. In the history of this race, there had been eight previous deaths leading up to the 2022 event.

Mthembu began running in 2017. Photo: Mzameleni Mthembu/Facebook

The Comrades Marathon is a 90-kilometre ultramarathon which has been run annually in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, since 1921. The direction of the race alternates each year between the “up” run (87 km) starting from Durban and the “down” run (90 km) starting from Pietermaritzburg.

Another runner passes at the Comrades

After publication, the Comrades Marathon was rocked by another tragedy of a participant who collapsed and died on the course.

47-year-old Phakamile Ntshiza, who ran for the Pretoria-based Adventist Athletic Club, died suddenly while on the course to Durban.

He collapsed shortly before reaching Drummond, the halfway point of the race, and was declared dead when the medical team arrived on the scene.