CAPE TOWN - As excitement builds for the return of the Two Oceans Marathon after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, champions Gerda Steyn and Bongmusa Mthembu say they are ready to defend their titles.
Regarded as the world's most beautiful race, the Two Oceans Marathon takes place over the weekend of April 16 and 17.
From the Free State, Steyn won the ultra marathon in 2018 and 2019.
“It was completely understandable that the race was cancelled, but it has been so sad not just for me but for all the thousands of runners who do it every year.
“We love the race; it is such a beloved race for all the runners in South Africa but we are just happy to have it back,” she told the Cape Times this week.
She said the last two years had provided her an opportunity to focus on improving her time over the marathon distance.
“I worked on my speed and managed to increase my time quite significantly. I am planning to use the strength and experience that I have gained to come back this year and hopefully defend my title at the Two Oceans,” said Steyn.
The athlete holds the national record for the marathon distance at 42.2km, and represented South Africa during the Tokyo Olympics last year.
“I am very happy with my training and the work I have put in during November, December and January. I was more focused on short distance in my training and that gave me a good foundation for the Two Oceans. I am very excited and want to get to the starting line now, and get the best reward for the work I have put in so far,” she said.
Title holder for the men’s 56km ultra marathon, Mthembu from KwaZulu-Natal said he was excited to be back.
“I am excited to come back and do what I love. It is not going to be easy because it has been two years we have not been competing and in such a race which is very competitive, you need to compete before the marathon.
“I am very happy, my preparation so far has been going well with a couple of days left. A lot of work has been done, so hopefully I will be able to compete at my highest ability,” said Mthembu, adding that the race would be a test for the mind as much as the body.
“I don’t want to rush myself. I am chasing the win, but most importantly I need to feed my body and see how the guys react. I need to compete at the highest level,” he said.
The three-time Comrades Marathon winner is also the holder of the African 100km road record.