CAPE TOWN - So who is going to win the Comrades Marathon this year? How I’d love to say yours truly. Of course it is one of those dreams I have. Why else run if you don’t nurse hopes of crossing the finish line first?
We are a little too far from conquering The Ultimate Human Race though and should rather be focusing on improving on last year’s time of nine hours and 12 minutes.
With 20 days to go before a little under 23 000 runners converge on Pietermaritzburg to tackle that incredibly challenging run to Durban, it is anyone’s guess who will reign supreme in the 90.184km race.
For instance, what chance does Bongmusa Mthembu have of retaining his title?
History seems to suggest it is pretty unlikely that the likeable Arthur Ford runner will be the first man to run into the Moses Mabhida Stadium on June 10.
Not since Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi dominated the world famous KwaZulu/Natal ultra from 2009 to 2011 has anyone successfully defended his title.
And the history of the race tells a pretty sad tale of winners generally doing pretty poorly the following year.
As it is, Mthembu is the only runner to have won the race twice since Muzhingi - last year’s up run triumph following on his 2014 down run success.
Incredibly though, the year after he won his first, Mthembu did not even make the top 10, finishing 17th.
It was the same story last year for 2016 record breaker David Gatebe who, despite promising to also shatter the up run record, finished way back in 35th spot.
Ditto for Gatebe’s teammate Gift Kelehe, the 2015 champion, who finished 41st in 2016.
Perhaps the most consistent of the potential winners is Ludwick Mamabolo who has regularly finished high up in the race and should once again be among the serious contenders to win this year.
Sure cousin Ludwick may have failed to bring home a second title since ending Muzhingi’s domination in 2012. But he has always been there and thereabouts, he finishing fourth in 2013 and 2017 and runner up in 2014 and 2016.
But can he finally get that elusive second title? The fact that it is a down run should put him in good stead, his best runs having been when the race started in Maritzburg (2012, 2014 and 2016).
Mamabolo has been hard at training and has taken it easy in both the renowned ultra races he ran, Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon (3.35.27, some 26 minutes behind the winner) as well as the Forever Resorts Loskop Marathon (3.35.38, some 40 minutes behind the winner).
No doubt he was saving himself for the Big C. But then again so have most of the usual suspects, making it a pretty hard one to call once again.
Is there any chance that a winner can easily come out of left field though? Methinks not. I am betting on a Mamabolo to win this year, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.