South African Athletics

R1m bonus waiting for Two Oceans record-breaker

2016-03-01 12:36
Two Oceans Marathon (File)
Cape Town - Elite runners in the 2016 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon will once again be taking part with a large incentive to finish fast.

There’s a R1 million bonus prize for the first male and first female to break the respective course records.

“The Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon is already an impressive race in its own right,” says Karen Thomas, Head of Brand at Old Mutual, “but we believe adding this record bonus has really elevated the race to another level.

“More international runners have been drawn to the race since the bonus was introduced, plus it’s added an extra element of excitement to the day. At Old Mutual we like to see perseverance and commitment pay off, so the bonus incentive is our reward to runners who wow the world with their dedication to their craft.”

When Old Mutual first announced the incentive ahead of the 2014 race, it immediately ignited fresh motivation for those runners who had held out little hope of bettering the times of Thompson Magawana and Frith van der Merwe, because ‘those were set on a course with a downhill finish’.

Runners who are convinced that ‘nothing is impossible’ think the bonus prize can be the catalyst for a record-breaking finish.

“If you look at other big marathons like New York or London, people also talked about the records being difficult, but then as soon as big prize money was offered, the records fell. There’s no reason that can’t happen at the Two Oceans,” reasons 2005 Two Oceans Half Marathon winner Hendrick Ramaala.

In 1989, the year Frith van der Merwe set the record, “the car was enough to motivate me”, she says about the Opel Monza she got to drive away. She thinks the R1 million bonus is an incredible incentive.

“It's going to attract very good marathon runners. It will take an athlete with natural speed to break the record.”

Natural speed is exactly what the then 24-year-old showed during her remarkable run. First, she broke both the 30-mile and 50km world records on the way to 22nd place overall - beating accomplished men like 1981 winner Johnny Halberstadt to the finish line. Then she lowered Monica Drogemoller’s record, set the previous year, by almost 14 minutes after Drogemoller herself had taken eight minutes off the previous time.

Subsequently, it took a decade for another female runner to break 3:40 and only in 2008 did Van der Merwe’s record truly look under threat when Russian Olesya Nurgalieva crossed the finish line in 3:34:53.

As it turns out, neither Russian Nina Podnebesnova (2014) nor Caroline Wöstmann last year ran under 3:40 to win, so Van der Merwe’s record may be safe for some time.

When the late Thompson Magawana set the men’s record of 3:03:44 in 1988, he actually bettered the record he set the previous year by almost two minutes. For his efforts, he was awarded a car too - a Volkswagen Golf.

The closest any male runner has come to his mark was in 2005, when Zimbabwean Marco Mambo ran 3:05:39 to win the second of his three titles.

While Ramaala believes Magawana’s time can be bettered, he cautions that 2016 might not be the year.

“Many top runners like myself are focusing on qualifying for the marathon at the Olympic Games, but there may be somebody from overseas who is coming just to try break the record.”

Old Mutual Virtual Coach Norrie Williamson recently compiled a pace sheet to illustrate how fast an athlete would need to run to stand a chance of banking the million.

In 2015 Williamson expanded his theory on the record: “Truth be told they would need to be well experienced 2:07 (men) and 2:23 (women) marathoners in order to have the talent to get close to the record, but would also need to know the course and where to push or relax. This means they will not be novices to the race.”

We’ll have to wait for March 26 to see if any of the elite field succeed in clocking a new time to clinch that waiting R1 million prize.

Read more on:    two oceans  |  cape town  |  athletics

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