Field of 21 000 for Two Oceans tomorrow

2010-04-02 00:00

TOMORROW morning’s Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon places over 21 000 runners under starter’s orders in both the 21 km and 56 km distances. Although the 9 000 ultra runners are less than were recruited for the 2004 race, which saw the return to the Chapman’s Peak route, the combination of distances presents a record field.

Up front, eight of last year’s top- 10 gold medallists return to compete for the R150 000 prize money with John Wachira sure to give his best in defending the title. There’s a full house of 2009 women’s gold medallists, but unless the world spins in a different direction, few pundits will see past the Russian Nurgalieva sisters for an almost traditional one-two payday.

One thing for sure is that the race will provide the same ding- dong battle from Constantia Nek as early leaders are caught out by the more patient pacers on the climb from Hout Bay.

National road champion Stephen Mokoka, who ran a top-20 place in last weekend’s world Cross-country Championship, will be missing from the massive half- marathon field, which was forced to close entry almost a month before the official deadline.

Although five of last year’s top- 10 women will return to the half- marathon, this does not include course record holder and defending champion Heleria Johannes. Her absence may be overshadowed by the appearance of René Kalmer, who has been in stunning form over the shorter distances on the outdoor and indoor tracks. Another to watch will be Irvette van Blerk, but the long climb up Southern Cross Drive may prove to be the lightweight’s undoing.

The desire to be part of the 11 600 starters saw many runners who missed the deadline pleading for spots and offering creative and innovative rewards in exchange for the coveted race numbers. This number could have been several thousand stronger had the roads been able to handle more runners.

The 21 km event is split down the middle in terms of gender and just over half are novices. Amazingly, almost 5 000 participants travel from outside the province to run this shorter distance, which also attracts more than a handful of foreigners.

Over 1 100 runners have made the trip from overseas for the Two Oceans events, with Germany contributing a country-topping 207 participants, only six more than UK and almost double third-placed U.S.

The number of runners who have completed 10 half-marathons is set to double this year with another 73 light-blue numbers due to be handed out, while 224 ultra runners will receive their numbers in perpetuity for completing their 10th 56 km journey.

With most runners (67%) in the ultra marathon coming from outside the Western Cape, one of the most telling statistics is that 34% of the field are novices. This highlights the impact that Comrades is having on the event, seen as key build-up races to the 85th running of the KwaZulu-Natal classic on May 30.

The 41st Old Mutual Two Oceans marathon — one of the country’s biggest — will be covered on SABC2 from the half-marathon start at 6 pm.

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