Mighty marathon

2010-02-27 00:00

TOMORROW’S Postnet Weekend Witness Pietermaritzburg Marathon has grown from a local club event into the qualifying marathon of choice in the City of Choice, and not just for those in KZN, but also for SA as a whole.

A record field of 4 600 runners will line up in Bulwer Street in the “wee hours” of the morning to tackle either the one-lap half-marathon or the full blown two-lap event that tours through and around the city.

Amongst the field will be the province’s leading athletes not only in search of the first-place prize and the provincial championship title, but also the potential of a place in the KZN team to the SA Championships in Cape Town in September.

For once the women’s race appears to have a competitive field, with Melanie van Rooyen of the Richards Bay Club the apparent on-form athlete following her three-hour seven-minute tour of Hillcrest two weeks ago.

However, there are a few others who seem to have saved their energy for tomorrow including Maya Lawrie, who was third in Hillcrest in three hours 18 minutes, but is known to be looking for a faster time and an indication of form prior to her attack on the Two Oceans in April.

Another whose name quietly slipped under the radar is Carol Mercer. Like Lawrie, she competes in the 40-49 age group, but in 2008 was a three-hour marathoner and winner of the silver medal in the World Masters Championships in Italy. Last year Mercer was sidelined by a foot injury, but it would seem she may be back on form.

Adding spice to the mix will be Carey-Ann Smith, who debuts at the marathon distance tomorrow and has the talent to get below the 2:50 mark. With cool conditions and a cool head, she could even edge towards the Commonwealth Games qualification mark of 2:45 and this would be ratified as the course is not only IAAF measured, but also one of the few AIMs events in SA.

Tanith Maxwell, SA’s leading woman marathoner, will use the race as preparation for the London Marathon in April and is not expected to feature among the top contenders.

It would be incorrect to discount some of the city runners, and the likes of Sarah Scott and Debbie Eaton will spearhead the Collegians Harriers challenge on individual and team awards.

But the race is not so much about the leaders as it is about the average runner.

There will be two previous Comrades Marathon women’s winners out on the route, Tilda Tearle and Helen Lucre. Tearle, along with husband Clive, will once again sport the colours of Savages.

Another couple is that of Eloi and Grace de Oliveira, who have been dominant in the couples award in the Two Oceans.

We can be sure that the Stella club will be out in force with running veteran Glen Connell and Shane and Gina Hinchliffe to the fore.

Jenny and Mike Sutton are sufficiently fleet of foot to put Yellowwood Park colours onto the podium.

One of the fastest marathoners of the 1970s and ’80s, Craig “Kamikaze” Hepburn, is back on the roads, but will be taking a bit longer than when he was top finisher in the Boston Marathon in the early 1980s. Years and experience have taught him to forego the fast early starts that earned him the Kamikaze title.

A more current speedster and another Comrades’ winner, Fusi Nlapho, can be expected to climb the podium.

In previous years, 60% of the runners opted for the 42 km, but in this year of Comrades 2010 the ante has been upped and a massive 80% will target the two-lapper hoping to dip under the five-hour Two Oceans and Comrades qualifying time, while the half-marathoners will have a generous three-and-a-half hours to beat.

* The Maritzburg Marathon starts (at 5 am) and finishes at the Carbineers Drill Hall.

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