Cape Town Marathon is celebrating becoming the first race in Africa to be awarded Gold Label status by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)‚ Elana Meyer told you so without saying a word.
There isn’t much to the Olympic silver medallist in a physical sense‚ but most of what there is was colour-coded on Friday. She wore a dazzling smile‚ and a gold windbreaker and gold shoes.
“It’s the beginning of a dream‚” Meyer said of Sunday’s headline 42.2km event — the fourth in the race’s history.
Alessio Punzi‚ the IAAF manager for road running‚ concurred with Meyer: “You’re halfway there. You have the certification; use it to attract more runners and more sponsorship.”
Events need to jump through several IAAF hoops to secure the Gold Label‚ among them a stipulation that they invite‚ from a minimum of five countries‚ at least five male and five female runners who have run qualifying times in the 36 months before the race. For men the marathon qualifying time is 2:10:00. For women it’s 2:28:00.
Last year’s men’s winner‚ Ethiopian Asefa Negewo‚ will be back to defend his title. He should have been back already‚ but missed his flight on Thursday.
Negewo will no doubt be pleased to hear that this year’s route is faster‚ flatter and straighter — or all the better for him to break the race record of 2:08:42 he set in 2016.
But Negewo is likely to be pushed hard by Kenya’s Laban Mutai‚ a winner of the Koln and Linz marathons.
South Africans will look out for Lungile Gongqa‚ who triumphed in this year’s Two Oceans ultra-marathon‚ and Elroy Gelant‚ who ran the 5 000 metres at the Rio Olympics and will tackle his first marathon on Sunday.
“I need to respect the distance and stick to what I’ve planned‚” Gelant said before his ambition took over: “Maybe from 35 km I can open the boosters.”
The women’s champion‚ Briton Tish Jones‚ withdrew in the past few days. Among those who will queue up to take her place is South Africa’s Irvette van Zyl‚ who is likely to consider herself fortunate to be able to line up at the start after suffering a freak injury at a wedding in June.
“We never dance but my husband asked me to‚” Van Zyl said. “He twirled me too much and my piriformis (buttock muscle) went into spasm.
“I trained with it for four days without realising it was in spasm‚ and that resulted in a stress fracture of my sacrum (lower back).
“I had four weeks of laying in a hyperbaric chamber to try and give me a chance of running the marathon. Otherwise I might have had only a week of training‚ and you can’t do that to yourself.”
Hendrik Ramaala probably doesn’t know what it feels like to be injured by a dance partner.
But‚ as a winner of the Mumbai and New York marathons — both in 2004 — he knows the difference between competing abroad and in his own backyard.
“I’ve run all around the world but to run at home is everything‚” Ramaala‚ now 45 and still running‚ said.