|All last year’s winners in the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon have confirmed they will be back to defend their titles in the 48th running of the event on Easter Saturday 15 April in the Mother City.
Zimbabwean athlete Mike Fokoroni of Nedbank Running Club, who took the men’s Ultra Marathon title in 2016 in a time of 3:13:33, is planning to make it two wins in a row. He is currently at an altitude training camp in Bindura, 100km north east of Harare and said that his training is on track and he is ready to compete.
Eight out of the top ten gold medallists from last year have confirmed their entries, as well as some top runners from Ethiopia and Kenya, so Fokoroni will have to work hard to claim his second win.
Crowd favourite Caroline Wöstmann, running for KPMG, is planning to use the 56km Ultra Marathon as a training run in preparation for the Comrades Marathon later this year. However, she cannot be discounted to defend her title as last year was also a training run for her.
Wöstmann will have her work cut out for her with a top contingent of international and African athletes that include Belarussian Marina Damantsevich, and Ethiopians Almtsehay Kakissa and Elisabeth Arsedo who all boast PBs of sub 2 hours 40 minutes for the standard marathon.
“The quality and depth of the field entered this year is fantastic,” said Carol Vosloo, general manager for the Two Oceans Marathon NPC. “We have worked hard on creating an event that attracts some of the top athletes in the world and this year is going to be an interesting race from start to finish as the athletes battle it out for first place, as well as attempt to break the record for an additional prize purse of R1-million courtesy of Old Mutual.”
The R1-million bonus was first introduced to the Ultra Marathon ahead of the 2014 event, which sparked new motivation among elite runners to break the records originally set by Thompson Magawana and Frith van der Merwe.
Magawana set the men’s record of 3:03:44 in 1988, while Van der Merwe set the women’s record a year later in 1989 when she ran 3:30:36. The closest any runner has come since then is Zimbabwean Marko Mambo, who ran 3:05:39 in 2005. Russian Olesya Nurgalieva ran the second fastest women’s time in 2008 when she crossed the finish line in 3:34:53.
In the Half Marathon, the competition is just as stiff with last year’s winner, Lesotho’s Namakoe Nkhasi from Nedbank Running Club, back to defend the title he won in 1:03:36. Nkhasi represented his country at the 2016 Summer Olympics competing in the 5 000m heats. He has personal bests of 13:21:68 for the 5 000m and 28:06:33 for the 10 000m.
Nkhasi is looking forward to running against his two team mates, David Manja and Joel Mmone who were third and fourth in 2016. He was also looking forward to racing Elroy Gelant who he beat into second place last year by a mere three seconds. Gelant said that his training has been going extremely well with his main focus on the SA Track Championships which take place a week after the Easter weekend.
“They all are tough competitors and we tend to push each other very hard which is great for me as I want to break the record this year,” added Nkhasi who had to settle for second place in the 10 000m at the recent ASA Speed Series in Gauteng when Gelant took line honours.
Irvette van Zyl, also from Nedbank Running Club, is hoping to make it two in a row. The 2016 Half Marathon Champion (71 minutes) says her training is on track and that she is working off a good base with shorter track sessions to improve her speed.
“This year it’s all about the best I can be and how fast I can run. This event is my favourite race in the year and winning in 2016 was a dream come true. My goal is to improve my time from last year as well as take the win,” said Van Zyl.
The women’s Half Marathon race sees five of the top ten return with second placed Onneile Dintwe and fifth placed Christine Kalmer posing the biggest challenge to van Zyl’s title defence.
It’s all systems go for the event which attracts over 30 000 participants across the various distances and makes a significant contribution to the local economy.
For more information, visit http://www.twooceansmarathon.org.za and join the online conversation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TwoOceansMarathon, Twitter at www.twitter.com/2oceansmarathon or Instagram at www.instagram.com/2oceansmarathon, and follow the #RunAsOne hashtag.