Scores expected to rush in for popular Comrades qualifier

2010-02-20 00:00

THE South African running scene is gearing up for next Sunday’s annual Weekend Witness Postnet Marathon, which looks set to keep its title as the most popular Comrades Marathon qualifier in the country.

The two-lap route that navigates its way around some of the flattest and most scenic parts of the city was the top qualifier in 2009 and this year doubles as one of the final qualifiers for the Old Mutual Two Oceans marathon on Easter weekend (April 3).

These facts have resulted in a massive growth in numbers, with a field of over 4 200 on the cards by the time the final entry is taken online at midnight tonight. Hand-delivered entries closed earlier this week, while the online entries (www.pmb42.co.za) have been racking up the numbers over the last few days. This will make it one of the largest standard marathons in the country.

“Normally we have a 60/40 split between the runners in the full and half-marathon distances, but this year it has swung massively to the marathon, with 80% of the entries doing both laps,” said Natal Carbineers’ John Hall.

“As the week has progressed the online has got busier and busier. We are expecting the usual mad-dash on Saturday as runners wake up to the fact that there will be no entries at all after midnight on Saturday.

“I only hope our systems will be able to handle the volume in the last hours if we get a rush similar to that of the Comrades entries in January,” said Hall with reference to the four-and-a-half minutes that it took for the final 2 000 Comrades entries to be snapped up.

There have been a number of minor changes to the route for the 2010 event that are sure to be welcomed by the runners as they make for a smoother run.

The start has moved to Bulwer Street and now ensures a clean, straight downhill getaway for the first kilometre to East Street. The removal of the first-lap loop around Carlton Crescent will take four corners and a steep climb out from both the half and full marathon events, and the out and back at Hesketh roundabout has now been moved to provide a break on the long climb up College Road on the second lap.

These changes will certainly deliver a faster course for top and back markers and with the likes of previous Comrades winner Fusi Nhlapo in the field, fast times can be expected if the weather plays along on the day.

Although South Africa’s leading woman marathoner Tanith Maxwell has entered, she will be using this as part of her preparation for the London Marathon in April. On this basis Maxwell is unlikely to complete the full distance, leaving the door open for others to go for the podium.

This could easily see Maya Lawrie collect the provincial title both in the senior and the 40-45 age category.

A number of leading up-country runners have also entered the race, which has clearly gained national recognition as a quality qualifier and Comrades coach Lindsay Parry will be targeting two hours 55 minutes for a Comrades A seeding.

The full marathon doubles as the KZN Marathon Championships, which will be used to select the provincial side for the SA Marathon Championships currently scheduled for Cape Town in September.

The leading local men and women in each age category will earn gold, silver and bronze provincial medals in addition to the commemorative race medals and T-shirts.

Close to 1 000 entrants are expected to line up for the single-lap half marathon.

The race office has more information at 076 164 9554 and online entries can be made at www.pmb42.co.za until midnight tonight.

TRAINING TIP

Next weekend a record field of marathoners will line up in Bulwer Street with hopes and dreams of achieving a marathon time that will secure them a seeding and qualifying time for Two Oceans or Comrades. The training may be completed, but what runners do in the final week, and the pacing on the day can make serious impact on whether they will achieve their chosen goal or not.

As we have discussed before, the benefit of training comes from the rebuilding and strengthening of muscles during the rest period and not during the training itself. The taper period is simply an extension of this process. Studies have shown that the strength and recovery gained in the final week make a significant difference to the levels of performances: the bottom line is that tapering the training is very important and one that delivers a powerful punch on race morning.

• Norrie’s full training tip is on the Witness website (www.witness.co.za).

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