'The race has a special place in my heart' - Yolande Maclean targets tenth Comrades gold
Despite building a reputation for being a guaranteed Comrades Marathon top ten finisher, South African veteran ultra runner Yolande Maclean will have to dig deep to take home yet another Comrades gold medal this year. The world's oldest ultra-Marathon which will be a Down Run from Pietermaritzburg and Durban is scheduled to take place on the 11 June, where Maclean is aiming for a record tenth gold medal in eleven starts. But she says her preparation has been less than ideal because of a lack of funding to travel to major races in 2023. This after her club Murray & Roberts Running Club announced that they won't be able to fund athletes beyond June.
"I don't think we ever fully recovered after COVID 19, but we kept on hoping that things will change. So when the club announced that they won't continue to transport us to different races due to financial difficulties, it hit us hard. The situation got bad. Incentives for running well in big races were also cut. We thought a new sponsor will come but we haven't had any feedback since then," said a devastated Maclean.
The 45-year-old who has been with Murray & Roberts since its inception in 2019, decided to remain with the yellow and black army even after the January announcement of financial woes wherein it was made clear that they could no longer afford to transport top runners to big races. It mean that Maclean was unable to run the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon in April - a race where she is also a multiple gold medalist.
"I didn't go to Two Oceans Marathon this year because going to Cape Town was costing an arm and a leg and I didn't have that kind of money. So I had to quickly accept that things have changed now. We need to accept and see what future holds," said the woman who represented South Africa in 2019 World 50k Championship in Romania.
But despite the setbacks to her preparation for The Ultimate Human Race the woman who holds a Comrades best of 6:29:47 set in 2007, says she will be in KZN next month to lineup at the start come hell or high water. Especially after organisers announced that the finish will be returning to the Kingsmead Stadium where she finished when she earned her highest position of sixth place (6:43:24) back in 2016.
"Its quite sad and disappointing that I have to fund myself to run the Comrades Marathon this year. It's not something I would have imagined, but I can't miss Comrades Marathon. I love Comrades so I'm going all out to be on a start line. The race has a special place in my heart as my father used to run it too," she told #TheTopRunner.