LONG-DISTANCE RUNNING: Tete Dijana storms to men’s Comrades Marathon victory

Three years after the last edition took place – before a Covid-19-induced hiatus – the iconic Comrades Marathon returned and lived up to the standard of editions passed with drama and stories of hope in abundance.

In the men’s race, South Africa’s Tete Dijana ran a measured and assured race as he beat teammate, training partner and the defending champion Edward Mothibi from 2019, to the 2022 title.

Tete, who works as a security guard at the North West University’s Mahikeng campus, completed the “down run” from Pietermaritzburg to Durban’s Moses Mabhida in 5:30:38, comfortably ahead of second-placed Mothibi, who clocked in at 5:33:46. Dan Moselakwe completed the podium in third place (5:36:25).

“I don’t have words. It took me three months to prepare for this marathon,” Dijana told SuperSport TV. “I took unpaid leave … This [marathon] belongs to Mafikeng. Edward Mothibi won it in 2019. And I’ve won it now.”

Forming part of a formidable Nedbank Runners’ Club contingent that was leading the race, there were questions around whether Dijana’s lack of experience would work against him. It was only his second participation in this particular ultramarathon, having run his first in 2019 and finished 50th.

However, the comfortable looking North West native peeled away from his teammate Mothibi, who had been running in tandem with him for the bulk of the race. This was just under the 1okm mark. From then, he extended his lead as Mothibi tired and made peace with at least claiming second place.

For his sacrifice of taking unpaid leave from his everyday job to pursue his Comrades dream, Dijana pocketed R260,000. As the first runner (and first South African) to grace the iconic Durban stadium packed with a couple thousand expectant spectators, the 34-year-old pocketed an additional R100,000.

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Earlier, Dijana and Mothibi’s Comrades novice teammate, Onalenna Khonkhobe, set a new halfway mark pace record – reaching the milestone in a blistering time of 2:26:30.

His teammates overtook the tiring pacesetter with about 20km of running remaining. And he would pay for overextending himself by not finishing the race.

Premier of the North West Kaobitsa Bushy Maape congratulated Tete Dijana for winning the prestigious title. 

“The people of the province personify what I said in my maiden State of the Province Address when I quoted Nigerian author and poet Ben Okri. We are people who have the capacity to endure and turnaround our lives no matter the challenges confronting us,” said Premier Maape.  

Mothibi who also hails from Mahikeng at Magogoe village. Mothibi was the men’s defending champion of the Comrades Marathon.  

“This continues to demonstrate that the province is abundant with talented people. We have been working hard in resuscitating and promoting sports in various parts of the province. And our efforts are now paying dividends,” Maape said. 

Adele Broodryk with Jenna Challenor during the 2022 Comrades Marathon at Moses Mabhida Stadium on 28 August 2022 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo: Darren Stewart / Gallo Images)

Russian runner reigns

From the women’s race, with defending champion Gerda Steyn absent, it was Russian Alexandra Morozova who claimed first position. The victory came a day after she had won an urgent court application at the Pietermaritzburg High Court to be allowed to run in the race.

This was after her registration initially was rejected, before being relegated to the back of the field. The Comrades Marathon Association cited existing stipulations set out by World Athletics which call for Russian elite athletes to be barred from entering any of its affiliated races due to the ongoing Russian-induced conflict in Ukraine.

Morozova – who finished ahead of Poland’s Dominika Stelmach (6:25:09) and South African Adele Broodryk (6:26:35) said winning the race was a dream come true.

“It was amazing. It was one of my dreams [to win this marathon]. It’s one of the most difficult races. I’m glad I could be here today and achieve that,” Morozova said through an interpreter. “I’m extremely happy. It was my turn to take the win this year.”

Jenna Challenor, who was the second South African women home soon after Broodryk, collapsed a few metres from the finish line and had to crawl over to clinch fourth place – with compatriot Galaletsang Mekgoe closing in on her.

“I was crawling to the finish line, towards my husband and my beautiful girls,” the mother of three said.

“That was the ultimate human race. It took all of me. But it was amazing… It didn’t want to crawl over the finish line. But my legs wouldn’t get up. So that was my best option.” DM  

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