It’s hard work, dedication and perseverance that will get you across that finish line.
For the first time in 23 years, South Africa has regained bragging rights to the coveted title with two South Africans being celebrated as the winners of the 90th Comrades Marathon.
Gift Kelehe from Rustenburg won the men’s race and Caroline Wostmann from Pretoria was the first woman to cross the finish line.
Kelehe was first man to cross the finish line in Durban, in a time of 5:38:35, with Wostmann crossing the line first in the women’s race in 6:12:22.
Wostmann’s win marked the first time in 16 years that a South African woman had won the marathon.
The Wits university lecturer said she went into the race this year with the clear intention to win, but in her first Comrades in 2009, her only intention and hope was to cross the finish line.
Speaking about her first time, she laughingly describes it as the most daunting experiences of her life but at the same time also one of her best emotional experiences.
Wostmann started running in 2008 after giving birth to her eldest daughter.
“I wanted to loose the baby weight and started running, initially it was just about getting around one block and gradually it became more. Then that New Year’s Eve, my resolution was to run the Comrades.”
She said as a child she had always watched the ultra-marathon with the likes of Bruce Fordyce taking the title nine times.
“I was a bit disappointed when the international athletes starting running the race and winning the titles. Every year they won, I was left disappointed and kept saying it’s about time a South African won, but never at that time did I think that would be me.”
Wostmann’s wins started picking up grabbing the titles at local weekend races and gradually bigger races.
She said it was by chance she won the Two Oceans Marathon in April.
“I think it’s because of all the hard work and training I had put in, in preparation for the Comrades. My only goal this year was Comrades, I really didn’t expect to win but when I did it gave me extra motivation to want to do Comrades and win.”
After grabbing the Bill Rowan medal in 2011, Wostmann kept setting new goals that eventually led to her win this year.
“After I won the Bill Rowan, I told myself if I can do that that I can push myself further. I can go for silver which I did, then I went for the gold medal until I had nothing left but to go for the elite.”
Wostmann trained harder and started a rigorous programme at the High Performance Centre at the University of Pretoria as well as a regular exercise programme that, among others, saw her strengthen her core.
She said she went into this years race with clear goals, well prepared and left the rest in God’s hands.
“I knew I was in the front because I had the lead car and camera crew with me, but I didn’t know how far behind the rest were but I don’t believe in looking back so I just kept pushing.
“When I got to the final straight I kept thinking like a sprinter, keep your knees up I kept telling myself. If someone passes me now it must be because I couldn’t anymore. As I felt the tape I knew.”
Wostmann said she fell to her knees and pain took over her body.
“I remember lying on the ground and looking up at the sky and just absence of relief. Mixed emotions, pain, excitement, tears, joy everything all at once. My dream had come true. It was an absolute joy. It all paid off.”
After realising all her goals Wostmann says she will return to Kwa-Zulu Natal next year to defend her title.
She is still deciding on the next step with her family, but the mother of two said going international may be on the cards.