Top runners eye improved times in Maritzburg City race

2015-01-30 00:00

THE 2015 Witness Maritzburg City ­Marathon is set to be a closely contested race with a number of big-name runners signed up for the event, which takes place on Sunday, February 22.

Speaking to The Witness yesterday, athlete manager Craig Fry confirmed that three of his elite runners would be entering the race.

Three-time Comrades Marathon winner Stephen Muzhingi will run alongside current 50 km world record holder ­Collen Makaza and current Maritzburg Marathon 42 km and 21 km record holder Munya Jari. All three runners are represented by Fry.

“With a slight change in Comrades qualification rules this year, all three will be running to qualify for the Comrades and Two Oceans marathons. You used to be able to qualify with your previous year’s Comrades time but that has fallen away,” their agent said.

Fry understands the new rules are an effort to improve safety at the Comrades, with a sweltering last up-run wreaking havoc on runners. Nonetheless, he expects his runners to be up to the task in the Maritzburg Marathon.

“Everyone talks about someone finishing it in two hours and 15 minutes but I don’t think that is realistic. The start is fairly easy but there is a tough uphill section past Maritzburg College which slows runners down a bit.

“I think unless an athlete can run a two hour 11 minute race on a decent course, they won’t break two hours and 20 minutes.”

Jari is the current record holder of both the full and half marathon (2hrs, 22 mins, 4 secs and 1 hr, 5 mins, 54 secs respectively) and is set to run the half-marathon this year.

Fry has different expectations for his each of his runners. With the Two Oceans his main focus, Muzhingi will be aiming for a two hour and 27 minute finish ­coming off the back of the Legends Marathon in East London, where he pulled out with calf problems.

Makaza is also looking towards a competitive Two Oceans race. With the Maritzburg Marathon a month ahead of the Cape Town ultramarathon, Makaza will be looking for a fast finish.

“He needs a good hard run, if he finished around two hours and 23 minutes I’ll be very happy,” Fry said.

“Stephen and Collen don’t usually like to run big races before the Two Oceans. But I like the guys to run a race before their main event. It helps build race fitness and hone tactics on the road.”

Being a Pietermaritzburg local, Fry believes the race will become a building block for aspiring local runners in the future as its profile builds.

“It’s a good course for local guys. It is not too difficult so you can nail down a good time. In contrast to something like the Hillcrest Marathon, which has a very difficult uphill section which you have to run up twice, the Maritzburg Marathon is an easier qualifier — not taking anything away from the race.”

A prime example is Jari, who’s record 42 km time came in his first ever marathon. Fry said the win gave the Zimbabwean runner the belief to win marathons and beat his personal bests.

But in order to attract the world’s best, Fry believes local businesses need to support the race.

“We need to get more local companies sponsoring the race. Pietermaritzburg is a great place to run. Most big international races are fairly flat and we have that here. If there was more support, we would see a huge improvement of local runners.”

Race entries are currently sitting around the 2 000 mark and race director John Hall encouraged people to get their early-bird entries in before Saturday, ­January 31.

After that, final entries for the marathon and half-marathon officially close next Wednesday, February 4.

Entries for the trail and 10 km will still be open throughout February.

Entries can be made online at

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