Motlokoa Nkhabutlane celebrates 3rd place during the 56km 2016 Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Lesotho athlete Motlokoa Nkhabutlane (32) regards Cape Town as a happy hunting ground in achieving marathon success and hopes that Sunday’s Sanlam Cape Town Marathon will be his best yet.

Nkhabutlane won the Cape Town marathon in its earlier days, then earned his biggest pay-cheque in 2015 with a superb 3:10:26 Two Oceans victory - the fifth of his six Oceans ultras. After a top ten finish at the Cape Town Marathon in 2014, he placed 4th last year in an excellent 2:11:02, which proved his ticket to the Paris Marathon, where he raced to 9th place in his best time of 2:09:47 earlier this year.

Unlike many of his rivals at Friday’s elite athletes’ media briefing at a City hotel, Nkhabutlane was quite clear about his intentions tomorrow. “I was racing for the money at Two Oceans, but Sunday I’ll be racing for a fast time.

“I love racing in Cape Town. I have trained well for this event, mostly in the mountains of Lesotho and feel fit and ready to go. I had a good half marathon in Bogota, Columbia in July (he placed 2nd in 1 hr 06 min at altitude) and I’m looking forward to a solid race tomorrow.

“The pacers will help us keep on time and I’m aiming to be in contention in the second half. I believe that if conditions are good I will be able to improve on my best time. It would be good to have my PB on African soil.”

Fastest marathoner in the field, Kenyan Laban Mutai (2:08:01), believes the course record is on. “If the weather conditions permit, we will definitely do it. Top marathons have pace setters and it is good that Cape Town has arranged this. They will help us.”

Two marathon debutants are looking to make their mark tomorrow and both felt well prepared and ready to race 42km for the first time. Fastest half marathoner in the field, with a superb 1:00:26 in the Copenhagen half marathon last year, Ugandan Thomas Ayeko is looking forward to his delayed debut.

“I was planning to run Cape Town Marathon in 2014, but then was injured in the African Cross Country Championships,” Ayeko admitted. “But now I am ready and will be looking to make it count.”

The second elite debutant is South Africa’s own Elroy Galant, who will be upgrading his status from pacer in last year’s race to determined finisher tomorrow. “I have prepared well and feel strong. I wanted to keep my debut for Cape Town and to race on African soil.

“It’s exciting that we now have a gold label race in Africa and don’t have to travel overseas in search of great races. I am aiming to run under 2:10:30 but maybe I will open up at 35km if I’m still feeling strong!”

German athlete, Lisa Hahner, is delighted to be back in Cape Town. “I came here last year, but just to train. Now I am pleased that when people ask me I can say yes, I am racing the Cape Town Marathon.

“Perhaps I will come back next year with Anna (her identical twin), but for this year I am running Cape Town and she will be racing the Berlin Marathon next week”

Pretoria athlete, Irvette van Zyl, declared that, unusually for her, she is injury and illness-free for tomorrow, but has danced her last quick-step. “The start of the year was a disaster. We never usually dance, but my husband asked me at a friend’s wedding. The result was a stress fracture which kept me out for weeks! That was our last dance.

“Fortunately that’s now behind me and I’m ready to race. I often have a specific target, but this time it’s been more difficult. So I will wait and see and perhaps just aim to be the first South African to finish.”

Weekend Argus

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