Dlamini bags another Sani Stagger title

Photo - Anthony Grote / Gameplan Media

Local veteran Skhumbuso Dlamini raced away from a strong field to claim another victory in the iconic Sani Stagger on Saturday, mastering the difficult muddy underfoot conditions but falling just shy of his own race record.

The 39 year old Maxed Elite team runner from nearby Bulwer, proved peerless on the day as he led the field to the 2850m high turning point at the top of Sani Pass and defended that lead on the gruelling descent back to the Sani Pass hotel.

“This is a difficult race, the downhill section is what puts all the pressure on you,” said Dlamini, who won the race in 2014, setting the three hour eleven minute race record in the process. His winning effort this year was four minutes adrift of his own record, but the modest veteran was happy with his performance given the conditions.

His team mate Prodigal Khumalo finished second, less than two minutes further back, having used his strength on the descent to overtake Thompson Magagane on the return leg and close in on Dlamini in the dying stages of the tough 42km Comrades Qualifier.

“I caught the second placed guy at the top and then the gap to first was five minutes,” said Khumalo. “By the finish his lead was just a minute and a half. I am happy to have finished so strong as this is part of my preparations for the 300km Ultra in two weeks’ time.”

It was a second runner up place for the 2012 winner, who rates the Sani Stagger as one of the toughest marathons on the calendar.

“This is not child’s play!” said Khumalo. “This is not a race for sissies. You have to be very strong. It is good base training for the Comrades, because we are looking for hills to build our strength. But this is such a well organised event I will definitely be back.”

The women’s title fell to on-form Magnolia star Danka Erasmus, who joined the small group of female runners who have completed the tough 42km outing inside four hours. The cheerful Pretoria based blonde was hoping to race a quicker time but said the conditions on the day, with the gravel road showing signs of the twenty millimetres of overnight rain, conspiring against her.

“It was so muddy, and steep! The last six kays just destroyed me,” she said after being welcomed home by her boyfriend Pierre du Plessis with the requisite bunch of flowers and cold cider.

She credited her coach Lindsay Parry with her twenty five minute improvement on her 2014 victory time, and said this was her last marathon for the year before her concerted Comrades Marathon preparations get under way.

“It is such a hard race! The uphill is just a terrible thing to do and the downhill is so tough. The last ten kays are so hard. I walked the last kilometre,” she added. “But I will definitely be back.”

The 21km half marathon that started at the top of Sani Pass and is a thigh-straining descent all the way to the Sani Pass hotel finish saw a rare brother-and-sister double, as Derek and Alison Wasserfall won the men’s and women’s categories.

“It was beautifully sunny at the top, then we dropped through the clouds four kays down and it was overcast and not too hot, pretty much the same as last year,” said Derek Wasserfall.

“I started a little too fast, so I got a bit tired at the end, but I managed to hang in,” said the 36 year old Hillcrest Villagers athlete.

His younger sister Alison was thrilled to made it a Wasserfall family double by winning the women’s 21km title for the first time.

“I took a few tips from my brother, who told me to hold back on the big downhills. He also helped me pick the most direct route when we drove up the pass before the race,” she said. “When I got to ten kays I had to dig deep but I pushed through.

“We have never had a double win for both of us in an official race before, just a few park runs, so it is a nice first for us,” she added.

She finished with a pink Lettie Love balloon on her wrist, adding her weight to the growing cancer awareness drive. “I was thrilled to be able to get it with three kays to go because I had something to distract me!” she  concluded.

Both the 42km and 21km events were fully subscribed as this iconic run continues to gather a cult following with numerous international athletes joining runners from around the country on the landmark gravel pass road.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS
SANI STAGGER 42km MARATHON
1 Skhumbuzo Dlamini 3:15:02
2 Prodigal Khumalo 3:15:58
3 Thompson Magagane 3:23:11
4 Best Ngwenya 3:28:18
5 Muzi Madikwa 3:28:45
6 Vela Sosibo 3:36:26
7 Lovemore Chabata 3:37:15
8 Michael Ndlovu 3:38:31
9 Zamokwakhe Mbanjwa 3:39:17
10 Andrea Biffi 3:45:14

Women
1 Danka Erasmus 3:56:52
1 Rosie Carey 4:29:27
2 Natasha Malan 4:33:31
3 Apiwe Gaga 4:34:30
2 Claire Julia Hackland 4:39:40
3 Lauren Shenk 5:05:11
4 Wendy Arnott 5:10:13
5 Sophia Ndlovu 5:10:13
1 Marili Munnik 5:12:25
1 Jeanette Jordan 5:20:01

SANI STAGGER 21km HALF MARATHON
1 Derek Wasserfall 1:22:04
2 Jeffrey Sosibo 1:28:44
3 Wisdom Sangala 1:35:48
4 Martin Ngwenya 1:40:42
5 Bihry Laurent 1:45:30
6 Jan Van Overbeeke 1:47:46
7 Grant Gordon 1:49:55
8 Anton Brune 1:50:16
9 Richard Poortier 1:51:23
10 Alison Wasserfall 1:51:38

Women
1 Alison Wasserfall 1:51:38
2 Aurelia Diore 1:59:31
3 Marie Agnes Pierrel 2:04:30
4 Shanna Lake 2:04:35
5 Christine Greybe 2:05:41
6 Heather Baguley 2:08:20
7 Louise Smith 2:08:49
8 Coreen Landman 2:10:26
9 Che Fryer 2:11:00
10 Gillian Keartland 2:11:29

For more information go to www.sanistagger.co.za