JOHANNESBURG - David Gatebe is intent on doing to the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon record what he did to the Comrades Marathon down-run mark two years ago - obliterate it.
“David says he’d like to break the record,” said his coach John Hamlett on Wednesday. “And he’s looking good for it. Of course it is not an easy record and with the seconding restrictions at Two Oceans, we will find it a little difficult to feed him well. But he is going for it.”
Gatebe and Edwin Khonkhobe are Hamlett’s two athletes who will be going to the Mother City to compete for the title on Saturday.
“Gift (Kelehe) is going too but he is merely doing it as build-up for Comrades. He will go gently at the beginning but if the opportunity arises, he will eat up the rest of the field in the second half and who knows what might happen at the end?” the Entsika Athletics Club coach said.
“Edwin is a very fast, new kid on the ultras block who has really come alive and we are hoping he gets onto the podium.”
But it is Gatebe that champion Lungile Gongqa and the rest of the field should worry about.
The disappointment of his poor run at last year’s Comrades behind him, Gatebe is in top form and keen to not only win his second Two Oceans title but to do so by usurping Thomson Magawana as the record holder.
In 2014, Gatebe finished first in an impressive time of three hours, eight minutes and 54 seconds but that was a massive 5:10 slower than Magawana’s record from back in 1988.
That Gatebe has not featured at Two Oceans since, finishing 42nd in 2015 and 666th in 2016, begs the question - can he live up to his promise as revealed by Hamlett.
But then again, this is the man who smashed the long-standing Comrades down-run record of Russian Leonid Shvetsov and still managed to do push-ups at the finish line in celebration.
That he is a talented and fast runner cannot be denied as evidenced by this reporter in a training session with him and his teammates last year. Then two weeks ago, Gatebe and Kelehe looked in sublime form as they flew past me just after the marathon mark of the recent Om Die Dam ultra, and they were just training.
“Om Die Dam was just mileage training for he guys,” Hamlett said. “And it went well for them. But David is on a mission for Two Oceans. The question I have is whether he’ll be in the right frame of mind for it after our training camp’s farmhouse (in Dullstroom) was broken into while he was there two weeks ago.”
That incident, during which no one was injured and the perpetrators of which have since been arrested, left Gatebe a bit shaken.
“The incident has affected him a bit but he says he is ready to break the record."
Meanwhile Gongqa is anticipating a much faster race than it was when he won it last year. And the Nedbank Running Club star is fit and ready to go with the front-runners in his bid to retain his title: “I’ve trained a lot. I’m even fitter than I was last year. I even have more mileage.
“I’ve heard that there are people who are going for the record. So everything can happen, but I’m ready.”