Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

Mokoka and Steyn line up as favourites for Two Oceans titles

Both athletes will have to be at their best to beat strong fields at the annual 56km race.

While they won’t have things all their own way, all eyes will be on Stephen Mokoka and Gerda Steyn on Saturday when they line up as the pre-race favourites at the Two Oceans ultra-marathon in Cape Town.

Mokoka will make his highly anticipated debut over the 56km distance, and while he enters uncharted territory there is little doubt that he’s the man to beat.

Strong, tough and consistent, the versatile 39-year-old road runner boasts an impressive CV which includes multiple national records and a standard marathon personal best of 2:06:42. He also flaunted his ultra-marathon potential two years ago when he shattered the SA 50km record, clocking 2:40:13 in Gqeberha.

However, he lines up this weekend against a strong field packed with ultra-marathon specialists, and he admitted in the build-up to the race that he was not getting ahead of himself as he prepared to tackle the notoriously hilly course.

Olympic preparation

More than anything, he insisted, he was using the race as preparation for the marathon at the Olympic Games in Paris in August, and while he had been tipped for victory on his Two Oceans debut, he was not even thinking about breaking the race record of 3:03:44 held by Thompson Magawana since 1988.

“I don’t have the record in mind this year. My goal is to get strength and use the hills in preparation for the Olympic marathon, which has an elevation gain of over 430 metres,” Mokoka said.

“I’ve seldom run a hilly marathon… and I’m new at the (56km) distance, so my goal for this year is to have fun, enjoy and learn.

“I will need to build more strength and endurance to have a go at the record. Maybe in the next year or two.”

Steyn v Van Zyl

Steyn, meanwhile, is gearing up for what should be a hard-fought battle against experienced distance runner Irvette van Zyl.

Van Zyl pushed four-time winner Steyn all the way to the line on her debut two years ago, and while Steyn remains the only woman to dip under the 3:30:00 barrier at the race, Van Zyl is expected to give her a go for the women’s title once again.

Much like Mokoka, however, Steyn and Van Zyl will need to be prepared for other challenges, with a strong foreign contingent expected to line up as well.

Following the 56km race on Saturday, the popular Two Oceans half-marathon will be held on Sunday.

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road running Stephen Mokoka Two Oceans Marathon