Confed Cup wreaks havoc with marathon dates

2009-01-01 00:00

JUST over a day into 2009 seems a good time to consider what’s on offer in the world of athletics this year.

Local running commences with the Ronnie Davel 16 km, a relaxed, fun event through the forests in Hilton, held for the 31st time on Sunday. This is the first of exactly 100 events and 173 race distances on the 2009 KZN fixture list.

With soccer’s Confederations Cup erasing all weekends between June 14 and July 4, and the traditional two-week break at the festive season and week’s rest after Comrades, there are over two races on each of the remaining 45 weeks.

The same soccer tournament has forced the Comrades Marathon to move to May 24, so runners will line up at exactly the same line and date, the old Empire Day, as the very first race in 1924.

The new date enforces a ludicrous compaction of 16 marathons and ultras in 12 weeks between mid-February and early May. This, combined with a total of 25 marathons and ultras in the year, is one reason South Africa’s most populous province has minimal national representation.

The province hosts South Africa’s fastest marathon course for the Nedbank Durban City Marathon on February 8. This route is the easiest Comrades and Two Oceans qualifier, and doubles as both the SA Championships and a qualifier for the World Championships in Berlin in August.

With Tanith Maxwell the only South African already qualified for the world champs, there promises to be a number of competitors chasing dreams and a share of the One Million Rand prize money. Although not as prestigious, South Africa’s largest women’s race, the Durban Spar Ladies Race, moves to July 26.

The PostNet Weekend Witness half-marathon on March 15 is the first of the Provincial Championships with the Starling Plumbers 10 km (May 18) and the eThekwini Marathon completing the trio.

Nationally, Nedbank continue their 10-event road series commencing in Tshwane on January 17 and finishing with the massive Soweto event in November. Last year’s 100% increase in field size for the latter will probably see a move of venue to Orlando Stadium.

Nedbank’s Stellenbosch 10 km and Motherwell 21,1 km, outside PE, provided the fastest times of 2008 over the distances and deservedly have been kept as the national championships in August and July respectively.

The South African senior track and field season kicks off with the first of six Yellow Pages Ultimate Athletics events in Potchefstroom on January 23. Local enthusiasts have the opportunity to see the country’s best at King’s Park on February 6.

There’s been little festive rest for Senzo Nkosi and Zinhle Mtshali, KZN’s local representatives in South Africa’s team to the Southern Region Cross Country Championship in Mauritius on March 1.

A good showing there can take the duo to the 37th World Cross Country Championships in Amman on March 28.

Apart from the elite and championship events there is a diversity of events locally and internationally to peruse on.

Will Haile Gebrselassie earn his million dollar bonus for a third marathon world record, this time in Dubai on January 16? Will Two Oceans experience a growth spurt now they’ve opened the ultra to non-licensed runners? Will the limit of 20 000 runners for Comrades 2010 boost numbers in 2009, as novices stake their place for the 85th anniversary?

Can the SA team come back from Berlin with a World Championship medal — something that hasn’t happened since the two Gold, a silver and a bronze of Paris in 2003? Perhaps Khotso Mokoena can add to his Olympic Silver?

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