Defending champions Mike Fokoroni of Zimbabwe and local favourite Caroline Wostmann will defend their titles next month at the Two Oceans ultra-marathon in Cape Town.
Fokoroni, who won the men’s race last year in 3:13:33, was included in the elite field announced by organisers on Wednesday.
The veteran athlete, who finished 11th in the marathon race at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was training for the 56km contest at an altitude camp in Bindura as he prepared to face seven of last year’s nine other gold medallists.
Though Wostmann was again expected to use the race as preparation for the Comrades Marathon in KwaZulu-Natal in June, she was set to line up among the women’s favourites after winning the annual contest for the last two years in a row.
She would be up against a field including Belarussian Marina Damantsevich, and Ethiopians Almtsehay Kakissa, a former winner of the 68km Legends Marathon, and Elisabeth Arsedo, who all held sub-2:40 personal bests over the standard marathon distance.
Organisers revealed recently they would again put up a R1-million bonus for the men’s race record of 3:03:44 set by Thompson Magawana in 1988 and the women’s mark of 3:30:36 set by Frith van der Merwe in 1989.
While those performances were achieved on a different course, Two Oceans Marathon general manager Carol Vosloo said they were hoping for a great race.
“The quality and depth of the field entered this year is fantastic,” Vosloo said.
“We have worked hard on creating an event that attracts some of the top athletes in the world and this year is going to be an interesting race from start to finish.”
Namakoe Nkhasi of Lesotho and another local star, Irvette van Zyl, would also return in defence of their Two Oceans half-marathon titles.
The 48th edition of the Two Oceans Marathon, attracting over 30 000 entrants over the various race distances, will be held on April 15.