Cape Town - With a R1 million bonus up for grabs in both the men’s and women’s races at the Old Mutual Two Oceans ultra-marathon this year, veteran athlete Hendrick Ramaala believes the records could be under threat.
The large incentive bonus was offered by the headline sponsor for the first time last year, but neither the men's winner nor the women's winner were able to crack the long-standing records.
Ramaala, who finished second on his debut last season, believes he stands a chance, provided the weather cooperates.
The former New York Marathon winner will line up at the 56km road running event on April 4 in Cape Town against a strong field.
"It's tough to say you're going for the record, because of the elements. Sometimes it pours and it's usually windy in Cape Town," he said. "However, if it's a good day, I think it's possible. I'm 43 years old but I still feel I can do it."
The late Thompson Magawana set the current Old Mutual Two Oceans men's record of 3:03:44 in 1988 and Frith van der Merwe set the women's benchmark of 3:30:36 in 1989.
Defending champions Lebenya Nkoka (Lesotho) and Nina Podnebesnova (Russia) have confirmed their entries for this year's race.
Ramaala admits it will be a challenge to improve the record times, but he believes there are enough strong athletes to form a solid group upfront and chase the bonus in the men's race.
Apart from the weather conditions, there are other factors that need to be in place for runners, he says. Planning is crucial. If the top men want to smash Magawana's record, they must prepare with discipline and fight hard together in the lead group.
"If I'm feeling good and push the pace I'm sure the guys will come with me," he says.
"It will be very difficult for anyone to do it on their own because you need others to help with the pace."
Old Mutual was delighted to put up another seven-figure incentive in both the men's and women's events.
"The Old Mutual Two Oceans marathon attracts many world-class runners, and we are pleased that this lucrative bonus has helped to ensure another strong field will compete this year," says Old Mutual chief marketing officer Mokaedi Dilotsotlhe.
"Endurance athletes can achieve their goals by following the same advice we share with our clients: plan carefully, commit fully to your plan and persevere.
"We’re excited that the reward could give the top athletes that extra push that will catapult them to glory and a place in road running history."