Road warrior can strike it rich

AN AMOUNT of R100000 is on offer to anyone who can run faster than the current South African best times, male and female, at the Jumbo Beach 2 Beach half-marathon in East London on Sunday.

While no South African runner indicates the ability to run these times at present, the R100000 bonus is offered to anyone who can run faster than 60:07 or 66:44. This would be the fastest time recorded on South African soil, be it from a Kenyan or anyone else.

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AWESOME TRIO: Lusapho April, here flanked by Stephanie Smith and Hanlie Botha, will lead the local charge at the Beach 2 Beach half-marathon in East London this weekend Picture: ROSS ROCHE

From a local perspective the favourites are Lusapho April, who was third in New York last year, and Hanlie Botha, in a class of her own in the region. April has a personal best of 61:32 run at altitude.

The Beach 2 Beach is a road race that already has a reputation as a major drawcard of runners, particularly casual runners and walkers, who will again be catered for in a 5km alternative.

But it is the relaunch of the half-marathon – a race that could be one of the most significant on the African continent – that will draw the attention of all.

East London has a proud history in the half-marathon distance, and has made the world sit up and take notice.

In 1987 an intense tussle upfront saw Mathews Temane and Zithulele Sinqe reach the finish line at the same time, separated only by camera. Temane was recognised as having set a new world best of 60:10. It was a glorious day in East London as 33 seconds were wiped off Kenyan Mike Muyoki’s record.

In 1991 Elana Meyer, for so many years the darling of South African running, set the East London esplanade alight once more as she raced to a 67:59 world record. Amazingly, it was also 33 seconds that was knocked off the record held by Norway’s Ingrid Kristiansen.

The route was four-and-a-half laps of the Esplanade and some of the backroom boys involved in the organisation of those epic events are on the team again.

The Beach 2 Beach seeks to bring back those glory days of tumbling records.

The 2014 version of Africa’s fastest half-marathon route has been streamlined to little more than a two-lap course combining the Esplanade and the East London Harbour, Africa’s only river port. Thrown in for added effect is the Orient Beach Pier.

The course is expected to offer the opportunities to run or walk records and personal bests throughout the field.

The prize-money for the first three places is R15000, R10000 and R5000 in the men’s and women’s pots.

Few of the current South African records were actually run on South African shores, but it took over 10 years for Hendrik Ramaala to break Temane’s East London record and then only by three seconds. That was in Slovakia in 1997. The record being chased therefore stands at 60:07.

In the case of the women, Elana Meyer broke her East London-based record eight years later with 66:44 in Tokyo.

The half-marathon starts on the Esplanade and finishes below the Orient Theatre while the 5km starts near the Woodholme and finishes at the first paddling pool, Orient Beach. — DDC