Ultra Marathon fever is slowly growing after Gerda Steyn’s obliterated the field at the Two Oceans marathon
Cape Town – The excitement of the ultra marathon season is palpable countrywide, what with Saturday’s scintillating run by Gerda Steyn at the TotalSports Two Oceans Marathon, where she obliterated the course record she set last year and became the first runner to win the 56km race four times in a row.
While the focus will now shift to the build-up to the Comrades Marathon, there are a good number of other ultra marathons before the running community descends en masse on KwaZulu-Natal for the down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban in June.
Next weekend will see a handful of former Comrades champions and gold medallists testing their readiness for the Ultimate Human Race at the inaugural 50km Tshwane North Ultra in Akasia, Pretoria.
The likes of 2015 champion Gift Kelehe and his Hot Running Club teammate Gordon Lesetedi, who has a top-10 finish at Comrades, are among those who have confirmed their participation as race ambassadors. Ditto for reigning Comrades champion Tete Dijana and the man he deposed last year, Edward Mothibi.
Their coach at the Nedbank Running Club, Dave Adams, says the duo – along with Galelatsang Mekgoe, their female teammate who finished in the top 10 on her Comrades debut last year – will be in Akasia for a training run.
There will then be the running of the Seshego Marathon on April 30, out in the township north-west of Polokwane, where runners will be keen to get in their long runs in the 50km race, which is being run only for the second time.
Local lads Ludwick Mamabolo – a former Comrades winner – as well as perennial top-10 contender Rufus Photo are expected to participate as they look to fine-tune their readiness for the big one in winter.
This race, though, has a unique special element to it, with the organisers not only seeing it as just a road race, but also as a vehicle for social change and upliftment.
According to the race spokesperson Phateng Kgomo, the intention is to use proceeds from the race to help children in the community who have reading difficulties.
“When we decided to launch the race as part of the Sisonke Foundation, we agreed (to) develop a vehicle that will be able to help us carry this mandate of getting kids who struggle to read because of eyesight problems. And we will be teaming up with eye doctors to ensure that such children get reading glasses.”
The race is also going to be used as a way to honour the legends from the Limpopo area.
“One of the things we have picked up is that our government tends to neglect the men and women who have inspired generations that came after them through their great achievements. And we want to ensure that their legacies remain relevant.
“And for this year’s race we are going to honour the great Titus Mamabolo, who was the first black man to become a national athletics champion in 1974, and the man who also holds the world marathon record for masters (men aged 50 to 59).
“So, our 10km race is going to be in his honour this year and he has agreed to grace the race and run the distance. He is still active, even at the ripe old age of 80, and we hope that having him there will be an inspiration to the young ones.”
Having inspired many of the country’s top athletes to take up the sport due to his pioneering successes in the 70s, motivating young ones should be an easy feat for Mamabolo.
The pre-Comrades ultra marathon season will be brought to a close by the hugely popular Loskop Marathon (50km) in Mpumalanga on May 26, before we all descend on KwaZulu-Natal, eager to see if Gerda Steyn will smash the Down Run record, as she did the Two Oceans one on Saturday.