JOHANNESBURG – Elroy Gelant has already made a deep impression in South African track and field and hopes to make an even bigger one when he makes his debut in the 42.2-kilometre distance at next week’s Sanlam Cape Town Marathon.
The South African 5 000m record-holder has tasted success over various distances and at age 31, has decided the time is right to make his foray into the marathon.
The seeds were planted when Gelant ran as a pacemaker in last year’s race, with former world half-marathon record holder Elana Meyer giving him a push.
“I felt it was the right time because I am in the prime of my running career, and there were a few things that led to the decision,” Gelant said.
“I am also doing it with an eye on next year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia, and my goal is to win a medal there, and I feel I stand a good chance of doing just that.”
A 5 000m finalist at both the World Championships and the Olympic Games, Gelant may be better known for his abilities in the shorter track distance but he has shown immense potential in the long-distance events.
He finished 13th at the 2014 World Half-Marathon Championships where he posted a personal best time of 61:10.
“The reason for making my debut at the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon is because I am familiar with the local conditions, I know the weather, the running surfaces, and the preparations,” Gelant said.
“You also have the support on the side of the road, so I’m hoping for a decent debut.”
Gelant will take a measured approach when he lines up in his maiden marathon as he aims to cross the line around two hours and 10 minutes.
Last year, Ethiopia’s Asefa Mengstu Negewo broke the long-standing South African all-comers record, posting a winning time of 2:08:42 to shave more than a minute off David Tsebe’s time of 2:09:50 he set in Port Elizabeth in 1990.
Negewo is set to line up once again, while Kenya’s Laban Mutai, who boasts a personal best of 2.08:01 set in Koln, Germany, has also been added to the field.
“I’ve set myself a target of 2:10 which I think would be a good pace to start with. I’ll use it as a stepping stone and see where I end up,” Gelant said.
“Then hopefully, if Sanlam works out, next year after the Commonwealth Games, I can go for bigger international marathons.
“I’ve been quite patient and now that I have turned 31 this year, I thought I am strong enough to take on the marathon.”
The former World Student Games bronze medallist spent some time gaining valuable experience at an altitude training camp in Kenya, where he got to rub shoulders with some of the best long-distance runners.
Gelant said the time there had taught him about determination and discipline from the Kenyan athletes.
“There are definitely some nerves since I started preparing for the marathon, but what has been good is that I have kept my training similar to what I have always done,” he explained.
“I’ve focused a bit more on my long runs, where I have added kilometre mileage every two weeks.
“Every time I have increased the distance, it has added to the excitement.”