Africans ready for CT Marathon

Irvette Van Zyl (Gallo Images)
Irvette Van Zyl (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - The elite athletes in the field are looking forward to the rare opportunity to race at a world-class event in Africa, ahead of Sunday's inaugural edition of the relaunched Sanlam Cape Town Marathon.

The organisers of the 42km race, aiming to secure IAAF Silver Label status, have put together the strongest field ever compiled for a marathon in South Africa, including seven men who have run under two hours, 10 minutes (2:10:00) and three women who have gone under 2:30:00.

"As an African, I feel inspired to compete in Cape Town and South Africa," said Kenyan Josphat Kamzee, a two-time winner of the Taipei Marathon, who clocked his 2:08:44 personal best in Berlin in 2012.

"The people here are very friendly, the city is beautiful and it feels like this is the 10th edition of the race, not the first once since the event has been revitalised.

"We will have one of the world's best marathons in Cape Town very soon and I am happy to be here as we embark on that journey."

Fellow Kenyan Beatrice Toroitich, who was third at the 2012 Hamburg Marathon in a career record of 2:27:41, hoped her preparation with some of the continent's top athletes would give her the edge in Cape Town.

"I am training in Kenya with the group of Wilson Chebet (three-time winner of the Amsterdam Marathon)," Toroitich said.

"It is the biggest group in Africa probably, with between 70 and 120 athletes training together.

"Other prominent athletes in the group are Sammy Kitwara (three-time winner of the World's Best 10k in Puerto Rico) and occasionally Moses Mosop (who clocked 2:03:06 on the downhill Boston course in 2011).

"Strength is to be drawn from hard training and I want to run my best in South Africa."

From a South African perspective, the likes of veteran former New York Marathon winner Hendrick Ramaala, competing in his first 42km race on SA soil, and former national champion Coolboy Ngamole will hope to challenge their East African counterparts for victory.

In-form Irvette van Zyl, who displayed her intent with a 32:20 personal best over 10km in Stellenbosch last month after returning from a serious knee injury, and fellow Olympian Tanith Maxwell will lead the local charge in the women's race.

"I'm competing in my home country, so I'd really like to do well, but I'll be happy to finish in the top three," Van Zyl said.

"I've run a fast 10km, and if I did a half-marathon now I think it would also be fast, but my main goal this weekend is to improve my personal best (2:31:26).

"You never know in a marathon, and there's so much that can go wrong on the day, but I'm hoping for the best."

More than 4 500 runners, representing 45 countries, were set to compete in Sunday's 42km race.

Another 8 000 entered the trail runs, relay, fun run, and Peace 10km race during the weekend festival of road running in the Mother City.

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