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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Mamabolo shines as Comrades Coach after Annah Maponya runs 7:32 to win women's 50+ category

For most Comrades runners, missing out on a silver medal by just two and a half minutes would spell disaster. Months of hard training and sacrifice only to see that precious silver medal vanish like a mirage on the finishing straight. That's how most would view the result. But then Annah Maponya is not most Comrades runners. Of the 20 500 that entered and qualified to run, the University of Limpopo athlete was one of only 561 women between the ages of 50 and 54 years old, which means that her finishing time of 7:32:32 made her the fastest women over 50 at Comrades 2024.

"This was my fourth Comrades and I must say that it was tough, but I dug deep to finish the race. I'm happy with my result but I'm also a bit shocked to have won my category. All I can say is that God carried me," she told #TheTopRunner at the post-race breakfast where she celebrated for her achievement.

Maponya receives congratulations at the Comrades Champions Breakfast on June 10 after her excellent run on June 9. Photo Credit: University of Limpopo.

But perhaps what is most surprising is that Maponya is a relative newcomer to long distance running. Her Comrades career only began five years ago and what's more, she only joined the sport six years before that. "I used to play netball during my school days but I only started running in 2013. Then I was coached by Lucky Maahlo. Thereafter I went to join Ludwick Mamabolo's group at the University of Limpopo because it's close to where I live. When I started running Comrades, my only goal was to finish the race. Over the years, I gained experience," she explained.

While finishing inside the top 900 competitors on the 9th of June to earn her first Bill Rowan medal may have stunned some, it didn't surprise her coach Mamabolo. A former Comrades Marathon champion himself, Kolobe has seen the unemployed mother steadily improve from 9:54:42 in 2019, 9:28:52 in 2022 and 9:14:38 last year. Mamabolo says her dedication to training in particular is what sets her apart.

A coach and runner, Mamabolo completed the 85,91km on 9 June in under 7 hours to earn a tenth Comrades Marathon medal. Photo Credit: University of Limpopo.

"Their preparation has encompassed gruelling long-distance runs, speed training and participation in various marathons and ultra-marathons. Many of these athletes have honed their skills on terrains such as the mountains of Tzaneen and the challenging Magoebaskloof hills, building the requisite strength and stamina needed for the demanding Up Run of the Comrades Marathon," said Mamabolo, who himself earned a tenth Comrades medal when he completed the 2024 Up Run in 6:56:53.

Heading into the 2025 Down Run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, Maponya says her approach will be the same - she'll simply trust her coach as she did this year. "Whenever he asked us to run the route from Tzaneen to the University of Limpopo in Mankweng, we would listen to him. We would go with him. My goal was to learn from him so that I can arrive at race day in good shape. As for next year, my faith is in Kolobe. He will get me fit and ready to race," she smiled.

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