Saturday is the 44th running of the annual South African race.
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Only one thing seems (fairly) certain about Saturday’s 44th running of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town, South Africa: the weather cannot be worse than last year, when torrential rain lashed the Peninsula, which made running the 56-kilometer ultramarathon a nightmare and turning the sports fields at the finish into a more-than-ankle-deep quagmire of mud.
The accompanying half-marathon will be run for the 16th time. The biggest half-marathon in South Africa, it broke all entry records this year, with more than 16,000 runners expected to start. Its “big brother” also has the largest field in its 44-year history, with more than 10,000 athletes entered.
All four champions will be back to defend their titles: Stephen Muzhingi (Zimbabwe) and Elena Nurgalieva (Russia) in the ultramarathon, and Xolisa Tyali and René Kalmer in the half-marathon.
For the second time in the history of the event, the top 10 men and women in both races will be tested for prohibited substances by the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS). In previous years, random testing of the top 10 was done. After last year’s ultramarathon, eighth-placed Lucas Nonyana returned a positive test and received a one-month suspension. This resulted in Odwa Tunyiswa, Kimutai Lezan (Kenya) and Moeketsi Mosuhli (Lesotho) each moving up one position and the latter receiving the 10th gold medal.
An interesting entrant in the ultramarathon is Ludwick Mamabolo. He was first across the line in last year’s Comrades ultramarathon, but then tested positive for methylhexaneamine and was suspended. Almost a year later his case is still pending, but Fahmy Galant, Doping Control Manager of SAIDS, said that Mamabolo’s suspension has been “provisionally lifted [with] conditions attached to it pending the finalization of the hearing.”
It could not be ascertained what these conditions are but at the beginning of the month, Mamabolo finished third in the Springs Striders 32km.
Apart from Muzhingi, eight of the 2012 gold medalists have entered again. The only one missing is Lezan.
The big question on everyone’s lips is how will Muzhingi approach this year’s Two Oceans? After having won the Comrades three years in a row (and finishing fourth, fourth and fifth in the Two Oceans), he produced a storming run over the last few kilometers in the 2012 Two Oceans to score a solid victory over Henry Moyo (Malawi) in a personal best of 3:08:08, the 10th fastest winning time ever.
RELATED: 2012 Oceans Marathon Recap
This victory made him the first male runner since Derek Preiss in 1975 to hold the Two Oceans and Comrades titles together (although Preiss scored his wins in the same year).
Eight weeks later, Muzhingi’s aim to emulate Preiss came to naught when he could do no better than sixth in the Comrades. Most experts agreed that the two ultras were too close together for Muzhingi to have recovered sufficiently.
This year, there is an extra week between the two races and that could change the way athletes like Muzhingi and others who have their sights on the Comrades approach this weekend’s race. Moyo, who has not been able to finish the Comrades in his two tries, ran his best Two Oceans in 2012 and has been in the top 10 four times. He led over the last big climb, Constantia Nek, last year, but could not stay in front when Muzhingi started his charge with 4km to go.