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Quickies chase big bucks

By Mark Etheridge

It’s all systems go for Saturday’s Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon around the Cape Peninsula.

A field of 23,000 split over the 56km ultra and 21.1km half-marathon will contest the spoils with the elite men and women chasing the first prize of R250,000 in the ultra.

The men’s race is one of the most open in the history of the race with tomorrow being the 42nd running of the event.

Experts reckon any of 30 top men are in with a chance, a lot of them from the international line-up of 1700 runners, from 77 countries.

Lesotho dominated last year’s race and eight of the top 10 men’s finishers are back as are seven of the top 10 women.

One of the more interesting runners is 37-year-old American Michael Wardian who holds the bizarre record of the fastest marathon, run while pushing a child in a pram ahead of him — an amazing 2hr 19min.

He was 25th in last year’s Comrades Marathon (6hr 02min) but will be lining up on Saturday with other goals in mind. “I need to go through the marathon mark (42.2km) in 2:19 or quicker to get an invite tot the United States Olympic trials,” he said at Friday’s press conference.

“Oceans looks like an amazing race and I’m really looking forward to it,” said the Washington resident, winner of the last three US 50km championships.

Also there was Kenyan Chebii Johnstone Kemboi, a man with a 2hr 12min marathon best run four years ago. With a half-marathon best of 62:50 he should also be right up there.

Nedbank team manager Nick Bester, a former Comrades Marathon winner himself, was out for redemption after last year’s Two Oceans. “We were destroyed by Mr Price last year. This year we’ve got a team with 10 different nationalities and I’m sure this is the best field ever for Two Oceans. That record (3:03:44 by Thompson Magawana in 1988) can go.”

That may still take some doing because the route for those records was substantially easier than Saturday’s route.

Frith van der Merwe, who set the women’s record of 3:03:30 a year after Magawana’s mark agreed. That old course was so much faster and mostly downhill to the finish after 50km mark. It will take a woman who can run a marathon of 2hr 27min or faster to break that mark.”

Last year’s women’s winner, Olesya Nurgalieva of Russia is back to defend her title with four-time winner of Oceans and sister Yelena joining her.

Olesya also won in 2008 and has run six Two Oceans. The record? “Very, very difficult .. we can get closer to it but to break it .. I’m not sure on this course. It’s more about getting across the line first,” said the Russian.

The half-marathon starts in Newlands Main Road at 6am on Saturday with the ultra leaving 25min later.


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