Cape Town - Hendrick Ramaala, arguably one of the best runners South Africa has ever produced, says he has never been so hungry to win a race in his life.
The 43-year-old veteran will be attempting his second Two Oceans 56km ultra marathon on Easter Saturday.
Last year in his first attempt at running the race, he came close when he finished second (first veteran) in a time of 3 hours 11 minutes and 33 seconds. Lebenya Nkoka (3:09:52) finished just ahead of him in first position.
Ramaala, however is not a stranger to success at Two Oceans. In 2005 he won the Oceans half marathon in (63:27), but that was 10 years ago. He believes he is now at the right age for ultra marathons and has set his sights on winning the grueling 56km ultra.
The former New York City marathon winner believes the experience he picked up doing his first Two Oceans ultra last year, will help him to approach Saturday’s race more wisely.
“Last year was my first ultra distance race ever. Before then I had never done a race longer than 42.2km in my life. So, I really did not know what to expect, I came into the race under-prepared and tactically naïve,” Ramaala revealed.
“This time around I have had more than enough time to prepare properly. My focus has been on putting in much longer hours with more mileage and quality training sessions. I am confident that all the hard work will pay off,” he said.
He says he is not fazed by the change in route from Chapman's Peak to Ou Kaapse Weg. He says he is taking it in his stride.
“Nobody could have predicted that and there is obviously not much one can do about that. It was an act of nature in God’s hands. Everyone will experience the same route, so it won’t make much difference.
I don’t know how steep Ou Kaapse Weg is. But it doesn’t really matter because I prefer not to attack on hills. I will take it easy on the hills and rather conserve my energy as much as possible and perhaps go bit a harder on the downhills which can be a bit painful. It’s a very long race and anything can happen on the day. So, I have to be cautious,” he added.
The six-time SA record-holder has represented his country at four Olympic Games in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008. He has completed 28 marathons with a best time of 2:06:55 that he set at the London marathon in 2006.
He still holds the record for 10 000m (27:29:94), 20km (57:46) and the half marathon 21.1km (60:07). He has run sub-29 minutes for 10km and sub-61 minutes for the half marathon, 10 times.