It's anyone's guess at Comrades 2010 | SASCOC - SASCOC

It’s anyone’s guess at Comrades 2010

The streets of Durban are buzzing with excitement as runners gather for the 85th Comrades Marathon which gets under way at 5.30am on Sunday from the Pietermaritzburg City Hall.

Sapa reports that with the recent retirement of Russian Leonid Shvetsov, back-to-back winner in 2007 and 2008 and record holder of both the Up and Down runs, the winner could come from any of the emotionally-charged camps touting their runners for Sunday’s prestigious honours.

Hot favourite American Josh Cox, running in Nedbank colours, is confident he can win the race. A media dream, with his fresh-faced, good looks and benevolent outlook, the charismatic 34-year-old Comrades novice has all the credentials. He lives and trains at altitude and has an analytical mind but lack of first-hand experience could be his downfall as this race is full of its own nuances.

“Running a race in Africa is not the same as running a race in the US. With thousands of people lining the streets and so many runners of such a high standard competing, it makes Comrades a hard race to win first time out,” said race commentator Norrie Williamson, who has 20 Comrades under his belt as a runner.

Cox admitted it would be the most challenging race he’s ever run but is looking forward to it. The last novice to win Comrades was Russian Dmitri Grishine in 1996.

“You have to come in to the race humble or Comrades will humble you. Patience is a virtue in this race,” he said, sounding wise beyond his experience.

“I’ve trained around the course record but a lot of factors come in to play — like the weather and tactics – you need to run smart.

“Records are nice, but records are borrowed. Titles are forever. The title is what I’m after. I’ve travelled a long way to be here, so it would be silly not to win, right?”

Defending champion Stephen Muzhingi (Formula 1 Bluff Meats) was cagey about his tactics and said his coach had not given him his instructions yet. He said he was not going for the record as his ambition is to better his previous best each time he takes to the road.

He holds the record for the second fastest Comrades in history after finishing in 5h23 last year, with no one was more surprised than he.

“I don’t know myself how I did it and I was still confused after the race,” quipped the Zimbabwean.

“My coach knew the secret but, even up to now, he still hasn’t told me what it was.”

Close to 19 000 runners are expected to take the field and South African hopes lie with Lucas Nonyana (Nedbank), Samuel Bolo (Bonitas), Bethuel Netshifhefhe (Bonitas), Fusi Nhlapo (Mr Price), Sipho Ngomane (Mr Price) and Andrew Kelehe (Toyota) among a host of experienced campaigners.

The women’s race has been dominated by the Russian twins, Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva, for the last seven years, with the exception of 2003 when compatriot Tatyana Zhirkova finished ahead of them.

But, Frith van der Merwe still holds the women’s record (5:54:43) set in 1989, and all eyes will be on Adinda Kruger (Nedbank) to finish on the podium. She was beaten by the twins at Two Oceans but is determined not to be influenced by them on the day.
“I am going to run my own race,” said the 33 year-old physiotherapist from Pretoria.

“The time is very important and I will try and better my 6:38. I’ll take whatever position comes with my time.”

Riana van Niekerk (Mr Price), Farwa Mentoor (Bonitas), Belinda Waghorn (Bonitas) and Lesley Twain (Nedbank) are the other South Africans who cannot be dismissed.

The men’s race, at least, is anyone’s bet and should produce one of the most interesting contests for many years.