Tanith Maxwell ups her game for 2011

2010-12-30 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL’s Tanith Maxwell is one athlete who has every reason to be pleased with 2010 and already has much to look forward to in 2011.

The Kloof-based runner sliced four minutes from her personal best marathon time during 2010, running to 15th place in the London Marathon in two hours 34 minutes 25 seconds.

Prior to this, Maxwell’s best had been 2:36:38 set in Warsaw in 2008, which put her as South Africa’s ninth-best all-time women marathoner.

Improved performances over the shorter distances during 2010, including a new half-marathon best in the SA Championships in Motherwell in July, predicted Maxwell’s next jump in 42 km rankings.

With the experience of the sun-soaked 2009 World Championships Marathon, where she finished a credible 2:41:48, Maxwell returned to Berlin for the annual event held in cooler weather to slice another two minutes from her time, taking the tape in 2:32:33. This promoted her to fourth on the SA all-time list.

Although Elana Meyer’s 2:25:15 is the fastest time by a South African woman, it was run on the assisted downhill Boston Marathon in her debut run in 1994. This leaves another Durbanite, Colleen de Reuck, with the fastest legal time of 2:26:35 from Berlin in 1996.

The Meyer-De Reuck combination recorded another 18 marathons under 2:32, with Frith van der Merwe setting her best of 2:27:36 and adding a 2:30:35 during the national championships of 1989 and 1990 in Port Elizabeth.

Any time faster than Meyer’s 2:31:59 set in Chicago in 2000 will put Maxwell into the top three all-time best.

As the ring of New Year bells fade into January, Maxwell will be stepping up her training for her next marathon adventure in the hope of a new personal best in the second London Marathon on April 17.

The step up in performance has changed the game for Maxwell, who is now approached by race directors to run in their event, but this is only a taste of the offers she can expect if the next improvement can take her under the magical 2:30 barrier.

Maxwell’s Berlin performance secured her a qualification for August’s World Championships in South Korea, which is the penultimate step to the 2012 London Olympics.

“When I started to focus and specialise on marathons in 2005 my initial goal was to run for South Africa. From a 2:58 in Durban SA Championships I progressed to the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and several performances around 2:40, but many of the championship races were in hot conditions,” Maxwell said.

“The Olympics have been a long-term goal, and the chance to run London next year provides a great build-up, particularly since the weather will probably be against fast performances in Korea.”

Maxwell’s plans took a massive setback in 2008 when she was one of the athletes who, although qualifying on a B standard, were omitted from the Beijing Olympic team.

The Boxer athlete missed the cut by just 34 seconds, which sent her through a period where focus and faith in sport were brought into question.

However, with the determination that is the hallmark of all elite marathoners, it wasn’t long before she was back on track with the London Olympics as her primary objective.

“London is going to be very special. Not only is it likely to be the best weather conditions for a world event since I began in 2005, but I also have a number of family and friends there so I am always inspired and motivated when racing over there,” said the 34-year old.

Maxwell is in her peak years as a marathoner and will have the assistance of running with some of the world’s best when she lines up in London in April.

Importantly for Maxwell, there will be a group of British national athletes targeting the 2:29 mark, including Hayley Yelling and Jo Pavey, who will be in their debut events, while sister-in-law Liz Yelling, who has a best of 2:28:33, will be in her first race since 2008.

It is Yelling’s speed, pacing and experience that may be the ideal marker for Maxwell to put the 2:30 barrier behind her.

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