'In the last 5km, I thought the record was slipping away' - Dijana breaks 50km World Record
Tete Dijana struggled to hold back the tears when he crossed the finish line in a new world record time of 2:39:04 at the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km race which took place in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality yesterday. After taking second place last year, the diminutive Dijana had been touted as the pre-race favourite in the absence of defending champion Stephen Mokoka who had set a World Record of 2:40:13 in 2022.
The Nedbank Running Club top runner led from the 30km mark when the last of four pacemakers Melikhaya Frans stepped aside to leave him, rising star Onnalenna Khonkhonbe, Maxed Elite's Tony Skink and Ethiopian Gadisa Bekele Gutama in a four-man assault on the record. It was the reigning Comrades Marathon champion who showed why he is considered one of the best ultra marathon athletes in the world.
"To be honest during the last 5km I thought the record was slipping away from me because the pace became heavy for me during the last few kilometres. So I was very happy because I worked so hard and I sacrificed. We trained during a very wet rainy season, it was raining a lot but we continued training," said the man who is coached by Dave Adams in Rustenburg.
But what makes Dijana's achievement even more remarkable was that he did it without his mentor and training partner Edward Mothibi. The 2019 Comrades champion shepherded his younger counterpart both during the 2022 edition of the Nedbank Runified and at the Comrades Marathon last year. But this time around Mothibi struggled which meant that the responsibility to monitor the world record splits fell to Dijana himself.
"Our general hasn't been well. He was sick in camp before we came here (Gqeberha), but well he tried to stick with the pace. Because I know that if things had gone well for him in camp he would have stuck to the pace. But even if he's not there, I have to do it and I had said that I would run my own race which is what I did," he told #TheTopRunner.
For his achievements Dijana walked away with a R150 000 winners cheque, an additional R100 000 for breaking the record plus R30 000 for finishing as the first South African which made him a total of R280 000 richer. Khonkhobe (2:39:41) took an impressive second while Skink (2:40:04) in third also came in under the previous record time. In the women's race Ethiopia's Emane Seifu Hayile smashed the previous record by almost four minutes as she came home in 3:00:30 with defending champion Amelework Bosho (3:06:24) second and Sweden's Hanna Lindholm third (3:08:56).