2 June 2011

Men of Action Complete An Ultra Marathon

On Sunday 29th May 19,617 people gathered in the South African city Durban to participate in the legendary Comrades Marathon. Starting at 5:30 am, participants were given twelve hours to reach the city of Pietermaritzburg, and faced ruthless and ever-changing terrains.

This year's winner was Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi who completed the ultra marathon with an astounding time of 5:32:45. But Muzhingi is only getting started: 'I want to win nine times and then retire', he said after finishing first in the 2011 Comrades Marathon.

Muzhingi was met at the finishing line by his wife and son

Muzhingi also added: 'I am not worried much about breaking any records, all I want is to keep on winning races'. Despite this, he has already started to break records. In 2009, Muzhingi became the first Zimbabwean to win the race, and his win last Sunday made him the first man to win the race on three consecutive occasions. The last man to do this was the 'Comrades King', Bruce Fordyce, who won the ultra marathon eight times between 1981 and 1988

Following Muzhingi across the line was Fanie Matshipa, who completed the marathon in 5:34:30, with less than two minutes between the two. But Matshipa has already had an impressive association with the marathon, finishing 8th in 2009, and 4th in 2010. Matshipa was 'was with Stephen all the way until the bottom of Polly Shorts but just couldn't keep up' - his coach explained - 'he ran a terrific race, he was disciplined and in the end just came up short. He has many years to come and hopefully he'll win next year. The Comrades is an unforgiving race and anyone of the top three can win on the day'
Matshipa: 'I'm really happy with my run. I came here to win the race, but unfortunately 10 kilometres in my body felt weak... I was satisfied with ending second'
In an extract from his newly published book, Comrades Marathon: The Ultimate Human Race, John Cameron Doe describes the event:

'The distance and terrain are such as to take the average person to the very limit of human ability in the quest to cover the distance on foot within 12 hours. Nowhere else in the world is there any race quite like it'.

Comrades Marathon is an annual event, but the route alternates between an 'Up' race, which starts in Durban and ends in Pietermaritzburg, covering a distance of 86.96 km; and a 'Down' race, which starts in Pietermaritzburg, ending in Durban and covers a distance of 89 km. The race has checkpoints which participants must reach in order to be kept in the marathon, to ensure that the marathon does not take more than 12 hours

This ultra marathon is an example of the continuation of The Wild Geese story - Men of Action striving to achieve the impossible. Completion of the Comrades Marathon is extraordinary in itself, but to achieve a time of under six hours and plan to go back for more, to further push physical and mental limits is remarkable. Just as The Wild Geese pushed themselves for the dream of 'Freedom for Everyone', these athletes exemplify that working toward a dream is worth the intermediate struggle. 

Although hard work and a strict schedule contribute to Muzhingi's race victory, Muzhingi cites the reason he won the 2011 Comrades Marathon is because 'Ndine confidence mukoma, I don't doubt myself'.

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