Cape Town - If you thought Lungile Gongqa’s Old Mutual Two Oceans marathon win last year would dull his hunger for gold, think again.
This year’s Two Oceans will take place in Newlands, Cape Town, on Saturday.
Gongqa – a Nedbank Running Club athlete who was born in Ngcobo, Eastern Cape, and lives in Khayelitsha, Western Cape – says he is stronger than he was when he completed last year’s marathon in a time of 3:9.38.
“I trained more than I did last year, so I might run faster. I ran the Cape Peninsula Marathon on February 18 and my performance suggested I would do well at the Two Oceans,” said Gongqa at the Nedbank team’s sendoff in Johannesburg this week.
“When I won the Two Oceans last year, I turned back in 2.22. I finished the Peninsula marathon in 2:21.58, which means I can clock another 2.22 at the halfway mark this year.”
Despite the fact that all eyes were probably going to be on him, Gongqa said he felt no pressure to push himself.
“I’ll run the way I want to. But first I want to make it to the top 10. Winning last year’s Two Oceans has changed my life and earned me the respect of my fellow athletes.”
Gongqa wouldn’t be drawn on whether he would try to beat the late Thompson Magawana’s 3:03.44 record, which was set 30 years ago.
“I won’t go into the race thinking about breaking the record. A lot of people have tried to do that, but then didn’t even finish the race. I’ll run my race and the record will take care of itself.”
Former Comrades winner and Nedbank Running Club manager Nick Bester echoed Gongqa’s sentiments, and said Magawana’s record was out of reach.
“That record is hard [to break],” he said. “The men’s record is incredibly difficult to top because it was [set] on a different course that had a downhill finish.
“The conditions [at this year’s marathon] are going to be tough because of the drought in Cape Town.”
When asked about who Gongqa should keep an eye on, Bester said fellow Nedbank Running Club member Mike Fokoroni and some of the team’s Ethiopian athletes could give the Two Oceans champion a run for his money.
He said he also expected coach John Hamlett’s athletes to present a challenge.
“I think John’s put in a hell of an effort with his guys in Dullstroom. All you have to do is look at a guy like David Gatebe and agent Craig Fry’s Kenyan athletes. One of them ran a 2.08 marathon and now they’re talking about a 3.02 run at the Two Oceans.”In the women’s race, Bester said he expected Gerda Steyn – who finished fourth in last year’s Comrades Marathon and ran a personal best of 2:37.22 in Valencia, Spain, recently – to keep fellow Nedbank club athlete Maryna Damantsevich on her toes.
Charné Bosman, with her slow burn approach to races, is another strong contender for the number one spot.
“My main focus is to defend my Comrades title in June,” she said.
“If I make it to the top five at the Two Oceans Marathon, I’ll be really happy. But if I feel good on the day, I’ll run to the best of my ability.
“I’m going to run my race instead of starting off too fast. The Two Oceans is quite different from the Comrades.
"I think you can win both because Caroline Wöstmann showed us a couple of years ago that there’s enough time to recover.”