Top contenders & winning predictions for the 2015 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon
(Cape Town, 23 March 2015) With the 2015 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon just over a week away, the top contenders are readying themselves for a battle that promises to be an exhilarating display of long distance running.
In the men’s race, the big question is whether Hendrick Ramaala will have what it takes to take the crown. The SA Half Marathon record holder and multiple national champion has little Ultra Marathon experience – last year’s Two Oceans Marathon was his first foray into a race longer than a standard marathon – but according to respected athletics writer and statistician, Riël Hauman, the 43-year-old veteran enjoys the benefit of extensive international competition experience.
“He’d certainly not want to repeat the mistake of 2014 when he allowed Lebenya Nkoka to run away from him after the climb up Constantia Nek – and then finished much fresher than the winner in second place,” says Hauman.
“Only three South Africans have won in the last eleven years, but Ramaala could become the fourth if he judges his race correctly.”
Other gold medal contenders include Warinyane Lebopo (LES), who was fourth last year (and sixth the previous year), Michael Mazibuko (6th in 2014), Peter Muthubi, Motlokoa Nkhabutlane, who was second in 2011 but had a bad run last year and would surely be out to redeem himself, Moses Moeketsi Mosuhli (LES), who has four top ten finishes but did not finish in 2014, and Lucky Miya (21st in 2014).
Cape Town fans will have their eyes on Mthandazo Qhina, who was second in 2013 and ninth last year, and "local" Zimbabwean Bernard Rukadza, who last ran in 2011.
“But let’s not forget Ethiopia's Teshome Gelana, one of the fastest marathon runners in the field, who finished second in the Tiberias Marathon earlier this year in 2:12:33,” adds Hauman.
Gelana has an excellent performance record in international marathons. His compatriot Ketema Tadesse, who was fifth last year, is also running.
The women’s field will also be hotly contended, with some impressive names lining up at the start.
“Charné Bosman is a great candidate as the first South African winner since 2001 in the women’s race. She was second in 2013 and continued to take fifth (as the first South African) in the Comrades Marathon that same year before having had to pull out of the longer Ultra last year for health reasons.
“She is fully recovered and is South Africa's best Ultra Marathon runner at the moment. She has raced two comfortable marathons so far this year and should be ready.”
But Hauman also warns that Bosman’s focus on the Comrades Marathon in May could play a role in her race strategy next weekend.
“Defending champion Nina Podnebesnova (RUS) should start as favourite. She has not shown her hand since her comfortable win last year, apart from finishing second in the Russian Half Marathon Championships in September – in a personal best of 73:34 – so it will be interesting to see how she performs on 4 April.”
Ultra novice, Tanith Maxwell, has emerged as the dark horse for the Ultra Marathon. Maxwell is one of the country's best marathoners of the last ten years, who set her PB of 2:32:33 in the 2010 Berlin Marathon. Earlier this year she won the Cape Peninsula Marathon and finished second in the Gran Canaria Marathon (2:39:45). Her preparations have not been without problems, though, and she did not finish the Durban City Marathon.
Other top SA ultra runners in the race are Melanie van Rooyen, Julanie Basson and Zola Pieterse, who was eleventh last year. There are also the 2014 runner-up, Ethiopian Shitaye Gemechu Debellu, who won the Dallas Marathon last year, 2003 winner Simona Juhász-Staicu, who finished in the top five in all five her attempts, US ultra star Devon Yanko, whose third position in her 2012 Two Oceans Ultra debut is an indication of her ability, and Britain's Holly Rush, seventh in the Comrades two years ago.
In the Half Marathon, Lusapho April, fresh from a magnificent fourth place in the New York City Half Marathon in 61:21, should start as favourite (he won in 2010 and 2011 and was second in 2008 and 2013).
His Half Marathon time is easily the fastest by a South African this year, and he also leads the 15 km list with his 44:12 – in fact, the latter is the quickest in the world in 2015.
An experienced international marathoner who has twice won the Hannover Marathon, April will be challenged by athletes like Joel Mmone, who was second last year and earlier in March set a new personal best of 28:37 for 10 km, Sibabalwe Mzazi (third in 2014), Sibusiso Nzima, Xolisa Tyali, Derocious Makhobalo, who earlier this year was fifth in the SA 10 km but has not run the Two Oceans Half Marathon before, and David Manja, who was 19th last year.
The women’s race is wide open, with neither Dinah Lebo Phalula nor René Kalmer running. Mapaseka Makhanya, who came fourth in 2014, will line up at the start again, together with 2013 winner and course record setter Meseret Mengistu Biru (ETH) and Irvette van Zyl, who was second three years in a row (2010-2012). Biru ran 72:43 two years ago (she has a PB of 69:31) and since then won the Cape Town Marathon (2:30:57) and Soweto Marathon.
Biru should start as favourite, but could be challenged by the likes of Christine Kalmer and Jenna Challenor, who ran brilliantly in last year's World Half Marathon Championships and has already won three races this year, as well as Nolene Conrad, who recently set a new PB of 33:20 for 10 km.
“And then, of course, there’s Cape Town’s big little hope, the precocious Annie Bothma in her first senior year,” says Hauman.
“She set a WP junior record of 79:09 for the Half Marathon last year and this year has brought her 10 km PB down to 34:39. The only thing counting against this youngster – who will surely develop into a star over the next decade and more – is that the tough course may not suit her frail build.
Watch the drama unfold on 4 April 2015.
For more information, visit www.twooceansmarathon.org.za. Runners can also join the online conversation on www.facebook.com/TwoOceansMarathon, @2OceansMarathon on Twitter and Instagram (and by following and using the #OMTOM2015 hashtag).