Cape Town - Last year's Comrades winner Camille Herron, who is arguably seen as the top female ultra distance runner in the world, withdrew from the 2018 Comrades race next Sunday.
The American long distance runner stunned the field last year to win in only her second attempt at the race.
She broke the tape in 6 hours 36 minutes and was one of the favourites to win at this year's Down Run.
"Her training and racing schedule has been severe, and I did advise her to slow down and rather just concentrate on the Comrades marathon earlier this year," said Nick Bester, national manager of the Nedbank Running Club (NRC).
She could have become the first female since Elena Nurgalieva to win back-to-back races.
However, Herron stunned the running community on Wednesday when she released the following statement:
"With much sadness and a broken heart I'm withdrawing from Comrades. I had a sudden quad strain last week. I'm back running, and while I remained hopeful and optimistic I'm trying to respect my body and do what’s right. I have a great medical team here, and we feel confident we can make progress to ensure I toe the line at Western States. I appreciate everyone's support, compassion, and good karma right now. I'm still just as much a fan and will be in spirit with my Nedbank Running Club team-mates and everyone racing at Comrades this year. Bless you all, enjoy the magic of Comrades, and Asijiki!"
Herron is arguably the top female ultra-runner in the world at the moment.
The American is a former world champion at both 50km and 100km and is the current world record holder over 100 miles.
Her withdraw from the race is obviously a blow for the NRC and will dilute the elite womem's field but with other race favourites such as Gerda Steyn and Charné Bosman NRC is still confident that the women's win will come from within their ranks.