Johannesburg - Olympian Rene Kalmer will be chasing a new personal best when she lines up at the Boston Marathon, the world's oldest race over the classic distance, on Monday.
Kalmer gets her international running calendar underway in Massachusetts where she will compete on foreign soil for the first time since she finished 35th at the London Olympic Games in August.
“Boston is such a historic marathon and I'm so honoured that they invited me,” Kalmer said.
“It will also be my first Major marathon, so I'm pretty excited.
“I hope that I can improve my personal best time of two hours, 29 minutes and 59 seconds (2:29:59).”
Kalmer, the only South African woman in the elite category, lines up against a strong field which includes defending champion Sharon Cherop (Kenya), two-time Dubai Marathon winner Aselefech Mergia (Ethiopia), and former Boston champion and 2012 Chicago Marathon runner-up Rita Jeptoo (Kenya).
“It is really a very strong field and I'm going to use it to my advantage,” Kalmer said.
One of South Africa's most versatile distance runners, Kalmer won her debut 42km race in 2009, beating a strong women’s field at the Soweto Marathon in a time of 2:44:06.
She went on to finish fifth at the 2011 Prague Marathon, which was her first international 42km race, and the Yokohama Women’s Marathon later that year where she set her personal best time of 2:29:59, becoming the fourth fastest South African woman over the distance.
Only Elana Meyer, who set the national record of 2:25:15 at the 1994 Boston Marathon, Colleen de Reuck (now a US citizen) and Frith van der Merwe have run faster.
“Marathons really make you strong. After running it for a few years I'm getting used to doing the high mileage that is necessary,” Kalmer said.
Following the Boston event, which is one of five races in the annual Marathon Majors series, Kalmer's next 42km assignment will be in August at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia.Meanwhile, Paralympic medallist Ernst van Dyk will be the only other South African in the elite field at the Boston Marathon.
Van Dyk, 40, has won a record nine Boston wheelchair titles and set the world's best time of 1:18:27 on the downhill Boston course in 2004.