Mthembu a top name in Maritzburg Marathon

2013-02-23 00:00

THOUSANDS of runners from throughout the country and around the world will descend on the city of choice for the Weekend Witness Maritzburg City Marathon, which will be run tomorrow.

The event was opened with the lighting of the flame on Thursday night and provides a full weekend of activities, which culminates in 5 000 runners competing over a combination of three distances. The marathon is South Africa’s most popular qualifying marathon for Comrades and the final qualifier for the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon on March 30.

Just over half the field will compete in the two-lap tour of the city, stretching from the Drill Hall in Geere Street out south to Bisley Conservancy and back, while around 400 runners will look for the short and fast gallop over the 10 km race which has been introduced for the first time this year.

Bongamusa Mthembu, the 2012 Comrades runner-up, will be out on the city roads as part of his build-up towards the 90 km ultra on June 3 while Melanie van Rooyen will be the lead contender in the ladies’ race. Richard’s Bay-based Van Rooyen ran a personal best two hour 48 minutes for the bronze medal in the SA marathon championships early this month.

While Grace de Oliveira, who holds the ladies marathon record of two hours 54 minutes 29 seconds set in 1999, now competes in the 50-plus age group, her time presents a target for Van Rooyen if the weather is favourable.

Candyce Hall, now a provincial athlete based in Western Province, returns to her home city. She will be looking to put her local knowledge to good use in her fourth outing over the route and will try to give the Comrades gold medallist a race to the line.

Although a few leading athletes will compete for the honours and prize money associated with victory there are many other well-known names among the field.

Stella’s Peter de Groot will be returning for the 17th time and is the only runner who has run every year since the race’s inception, while Mike “Buthy” Arbuthnot, the founder of the Seals Midmar Mile swim is the oldest runner at the age of 80, but there are over 220 runners, such as Comrades historian, Barry Varty, who are in his slipstream to compete in the 60 and 70 age groups.

The event has grown in stature on an annual basis and this year attracted runners from United Kingdom, USA, Brazil as well as the continent of Africa. With this the Weekend Witness Marathon is proving not only to be a runners’ favourite, but also one of the major commercial boosts to the local community.

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