Local contenders will again face an international onslaught as they battle for supremacy at the 50th edition of the Old Mutual Two Oceans ultra-marathon in Cape Town on Saturday
With a group of Kenyan men chasing the long-standing record, and a powerful local contingent turning out in the women’s contest, exciting races are on the cards.
We take a closer look at some of the favourites ahead of the annual 56km road race.
Justin Cheshire (Kenya)
Last year, Cheshire became only the second Kenyan athlete to win the race, crossing the line in 3:09:21. Returning this weekend with the support of a small but strong team from the powerhouse East African nation, Cheshire is confident they can have a crack at the 31-year-old Two Oceans record of 3:03:44 held by Thompson Magawana.
“This time we are looking for the record. We hope that as the team from Kenya, we will run very well.”Justin Cheshire
Lungile Gongqa (South Africa)
A former Olympian in the standard marathon event, Gongqa stepped up to the ultra-distance circuit in style when he won the Two Oceans title in 2017.
The only South African to have lifted the men’s crown in the last five years, he’ll be eager to shine again.
Abraham Kiprotich (France)
If anyone in the line-up has the credentials (albeit on paper) to target Magawana’s record, it’s Kiprotich.
A former winner of standard marathon races in Istanbul, Daegu and Lagos, the Kenyan-born athlete holds a 42km personal best of 2:08:33 and he’ll be difficult to beat if he can go the extra distance.
Gerda Steyn (South Africa)
Having emerged as one of South Africa’s most versatile long-distance runners, Steyn will return in defence of the title she won last season.
After finishing second at the 90km Comrades Marathon last year, she went on to grab 13th place at the 42km New York Marathon in 2:31:04, and she will be among the favourites once again.
“This year will be different to last year because there is more pressure, but it hasn’t affected the way I’ve prepared.”Gerda Steyn
Irvette van Zyl (South Africa)
Another one of the country’s top standard marathon runners, Van Zyl will make her eagerly anticipated ultra-marathon debut.
Having clocked a super 42km time of 2:33:43 at the high-altitude Soweto Marathon late last year, if she shows some patience in the first half, the rest of the field could be competing for second place.
“The more hilly it gets, the more I like it because I like tough courses. I have huge respect for ultra-marathon runners, so I’m nervous, but I’m up for it.”Irvette van Zyl
A long list of elite women will be in with a chance, making it difficult to predict who will stand out on the day.
Among those who are expected to produce challenges are Durbanite Jenna Challenor and Dominika Stelmach of Poland, who took the runner-up spots in 2017 and 2018 respectively.