Ramaala promises his full effort in marathon

2013-08-17 00:00

MASTER marathoner Hendrick Ramaala and his protégé Sibusiso Mzima are in Moscow for this afternoon’s World Marathon Cup showdown.

Ramaala, South Africa’s most successful marathoner of recent years, has never liked long acclimatisation periods, and certainly the weather appears to have changed dramatically from the blistering heat and humidity that greeted the women on the first day of the World Championships.

The weather forecasters are predicting an afternoon high of 22º Celsius and 53% humidity, with a gentle six kilometre-per-hour wind — all of which will have nominal impact on the times in what should be an interesting race.

If conditions are cool, the winning time could deliver a new championships record below 2:05, but if there is humidity, it will drop to 2:06/2:07 as the focus changes to winning the title.

Five men — Kenyan Bernard Keoch and Ethiopians Tadese Tola, Tsegaye Kebede, Fiysa Lelisa and Lilisa Desisa who won both Boston and the pancake-flat Dubai marathon this year — have already recorded 2:04 finishes. This will be Desisa’s third marathon of the year and that may count against him. But with a full team, the Ethiopians look like the best bet for gold this time around.

At 42 years of age, Ramaala is the oldest member of the South African team, but this has not dampened his enthusiasm.

“I’m hoping this [World Championship] will be the best of the best, compared to the last six,” said the Johannesburg-based athlete, who is attending his seventh World Championship.

“My best position was ninth in Paris 2003. This time, I’m hoping to improve on that,” continued Ramaala, who ran the 10 000 m in his first three world championships, beginning in Gotenburg in 1995, before moving up to the marathon in 2003.

The Moscow course is a fast one that starts and finishes in the 1980 Olympic stadium, and has runners compete over a short lap before completing three more laps of 10 km to Red Square and back.

There were originally 76 entrants for the men’s marathon, with many countries, South Africa included, entering the minimum of three runners to compete in the World Cup team event.

In 2005, South Africa had the ignominious honour of all five team members failing to finish.

“The withdrawal of Lusapho [April] dealt a hard blow on us, because we really thought he was going to be the man to watch. He was going to be one of the potential medallists at his best,” said Ramaala, who advises a number of up-and-coming athletes, including his team-mate Mzima.

“But we still have Subusiso and myself … You will see us up there. We will try our best,” he promised.

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