Cape Town athletes are determined that the Peninsula Marathon spoils will remain home after Sunday’s contest. Photo: @TopEventsSA on twitter

CAPE TOWN – Distance runners from around the country will be travelling to Cape Town this weekend for the annual running of the Peninsula Marathon, although local athletes are determined that the trophy will remain in the Cape after Sunday’s contest.

The race along the Main Road between Green Point and Simon’s Town is one of the oldest road races in the country, with the contest as much to do with the elements as with opponents.  More often than not, the summer south-easter adds significantly to the degree of difficulty of the marathon, with runners especially likely to feel the teeth of the wind in the final quarter along the sea-front from Muizenberg.

Such are the effects of the wind that pressure from leading athletes in the 1980’s forced the organisers’ hand and in 1984 the race was literally turned on its head - starting in Simon’s Town and ending in the City.  Ironically that was one of the few occasions that the wind blew from the north-west, preventing Cape Town’s Ron Boreham from breaking the 2 hour 12 minute barrier, the Varsity Old Boys’ athlete winning in 2 hr 17 min.

Never again has the route been changed, and athletes will again finish on the naval sports’ fields in Simon’s Town after a testing undulating final stretch.

The impact of the south-easter was significant in last year’s race, with winner, Lindikhaya “Leeds” Mthyangayi, outrunning his Nedbank clubmate and Two Oceans winner, Lungile Gongqa, in the final stages to win in 2:27:01 – almost six minutes slower than Gongqa’s winning time the year before, set in relatively calm conditions.

Both athletes will be in action again tomorrow (Sunday), together with a third Nedbank athlete and multi-Two Oceans gold-medallist, Mthandazo Qhina, who bagged the final podium position last year. All three are on the “wrong” side of forty but still in their marathon prime, and will be using the race as a race build-up for the Two Oceans 56km over the Easter weekend.

The national flavour will be most apparent in the women’s competition, with Durban star, Jenna Challenor, back to defend her title. Motivated by the then recent loss of her father, Challenor ran a superb race last year, winning in an impressive 2:46:05 against the wind and will be aiming for a repeat performance on Sunday ahead of her Murray and Roberts clubmate, former Comrades Marathon winner, Charne Bosman.

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The Half Marathon, which starts at the half-way mark in Bergvliet, provides a competitive outing for faster runners, with Atlantic’s Sibusiso Madikizela defending his title against a strong line-up of athletes.  Retail Langa’s Fortunate Chidzivo won the women’s race but has not entered this year, opening the way for a new women’s champion.

The marathon gets underway at 05h15 from Somerset Road in Green Point, with the half marathon starting from Bergvliet at 07h00.  

Stephen Granger