Yet to win the 56km ultra marathon in the Mother City, the Nedbank Running Club star believes he is in the form of his life and is looking to run faster than the three hours, 14 minutes and 43 seconds he ran back in 2009.
“In the past I’ve struggled with injuries, but this year all those are a thing of the past. I am fit and my training has been going very well,” Mamabolo said this week at the club’s farewell function for athletes going to represent them at Two Oceans.
“I’m looking for better results. I’ve been doing a lot of speed work and tempo runs as well as short races. I’ve done about four or five 10km races and all of them I ran under 2.32 (an average of 2min 32sec per km). So I know now I can stick with the (faster) guys for a longer time. Unlike in the previous years when I just had a lot of mileage, I now also have the speed.”
Almost always among the favourites for ultras such as this one, Mamabolo was careful not to proclaim himself up for the challenge of deposing clubmate Lungile Ngongqa.
“I’m looking forward to competing at Two Oceans and hopefully I will get better results. I definitely want to make top 10, but I don’t want to put myself under pressure. There’s Comrades (Marathon) still to come. So I am going to be a bit conservative. I know that people always expect Ludwick to be the best, but I’ve got to conserve myself for Comrades.”
Interestingly, while he did not vocalise his hopes to achieve it, Mamabolo believes a Two Oceans/Comrades double is possible this year.
“In the past Two Oceans used to be training, but now there is enough time between it and Comrades. So a double is possible as I’ve got enough time to recover after Two Oceans,” he said in reference to the fact that the world famous KZN ultra is taking place a little more than two months after Two Oceans.
While he’d love to end his Cape Town duck, it is the Comrades title Mamabolo craves more. “I’ve been looking for that all my life,” he said of a second Comrades title.
Mamabolo was champion back in 2012, his win later mired in a doping controversy that he won on a technicality.
His coach Nick Bester has challenged him to rid himself of the bridesmaid’s tag he has worn on no less than three occasions. “I've been second three times, which tells me I just need to plan my race carefully. I’ve won it, so I know what it takes. I’m looking forward to Comrades. It's a down run and I believe this will be my year."
How he performs at Two Oceans next weekend will, however, go a long way towards to not only building his confidence for the 'Big C' but also to send a warning to his adversaries that he means business this year.
After all, he is in great shape ... he says.