Johannesburg - South Africa's leading female marathon runner, Rene Kalmer, has channelled all her focus this year on one race - the Olympic marathon.
Kalmer, 31, has competed five times over the classic 42.2km distance, but made a major breakthrough in Yokohama in November, clocking two hours, 29 minutes and 59 seconds (2:29:59) to better the Olympic A-standard qualifying time by more than seven minutes.
While she will take part in two marathon races ahead of the London Games, she said on Monday she would act as a pacemaker in both as she aimed to set another personal best (PB) at the quadrennial sporting showpiece.
"I want to run well at the Olympics, so that's why I'm not racing other full marathons this year," Kalmer said at the launch of the BestMed Tuks half-marathon on Monday.
"A marathon takes quite a lot out of you and I want to run a PB in London."
Kalmer said her initial preparations had gone well, and she would use the Nagoya Women's Marathon in March and the London Marathon in April, where she hoped to take the leaders a little further than halfway, to tune-up for the Games.
"It's going well. If I compare my training to this time last year, I am feeling a lot more excited and my runs are much faster," she said.
Meanwhile, Kalmer's training partner, Irvette van Blerk, will go the full distance at the London Marathon in April as she puts all her eggs in one basket in search of the 2:37:00 Olympic standard.
Van Blerk made her debut at the Soweto Marathon in November, but she was tripped shortly after the start and, with a recurring knee injury troubling her in the second half, she withdrew from the race.
"This will be like my first marathon because I did not finish in Soweto," Van Blerk said.
"I'm not sure how it's going to go, but I'm hoping to qualify. That's the goal."
Van Blerk said she had not planned for anything after the London race in April, as she was unsure how she would recover, or whether she would reach the qualifying standard for the Olympics in July.
"I'm not sure how I'll feel after a full marathon, so I have only planned till April. That's how far my season goes at this stage," she said.
"The marathon is a whole different game and it's all new to me."
Kalmer and Van Blerk were announced among a host of elite SA athletes for the Tuks race in Pretoria next weekend, but were unlikely to line-up against each other.
While Kalmer said she would probably compete in the half-marathon, Van Blerk confirmed she had opted for the 10km race.
Organisers of the annual event, one of the largest road races in Gauteng, said they hoped for 15 000 entries.
The men's field would include multiple SA road and track champion Stephen Mokoka, who has already qualified for the marathon event at the London Games.
Mokoka was expected to run the 10km race in Pretoria, while reigning champion Sibusiso Zuma was set to defend his half-marathon title.