To say Ellie Greenwood won a marathon yesterday would be wrong. The Canada-based Scot became the first British woman to win the Comrades Marathon – a race almost double the usual 26.2 miles.
The Comrades is the world's oldest and most competitive ultramarathon. It is 55 miles of undulating road in the KwaZulu Natal region of South Africa – monotonous, hot and brutal.
Greenwood finished in 6 hours, 18 minutes and 15 seconds to end an 11-year run of Russian winners. She came from behind in the closing miles to overtake the Russian twins, Elena and Oleysa Nurglaieva, who came second and third respectively. Between them they had won the previous 10 races. Her fellow Briton Jo Meek came fifth.
Greenwood, 35, admitted she had a “pretty terrible race” but added: “I didn't come all the way here to give up.”
Zola Budd, who 30 years ago ran barefoot for Britain in the Los Angeles Olympics, came seventh. Bongmusa Mthembu of South Africa won the men's race, ahead of his compatriots Ludwick Mamabolo and Gift Kelehe.
The Comrades has been run since 1921 on a course between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The start alternates each year; the 2014 edition was a “down” race, starting in Pietermaritzburg and finishing on the coast. Over18,000 runners started yesterday's race.
Greenwood's previous achievements have largely come in trail ultramarathons. Two years ago she broke an 18-year-old course record for the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run in California; a race traditionally stacked with the cream of the ultra-distance crop.