With just under 3km to go in the 2016 Old Mutual Two oceans Marathon, Tanith Maxwell must have thought she had done enough to win the women’s title, having led for much of the race, then being overtaken by unheralded Ethiopian Amelework Fikadu Bosho on the Constantia Nek climb, but digging deep to reclaim the lead for much of the last 10km. However, she simply didn’t have an answer to the flying Caroline W?stmann, who once again left her charge late to power through and claim the win. She crossed the line in 3:44:44, 71 seconds ahead of Maxwell, wo had been third in 2015, with Bosho third
Last year W?stmann became the first South African female winner at Two Oceans in 14 years, then went on to win the Comrades Marathon as well, only the fourth athlete ever to record this ‘double’ in the two premier South African ultra-marathons. Then, just two weeks before this year’s Two Oceans, she won the Old Mutual Om Die Dam 50km ultra as well, becoming only the second athlete after Frith van der Merwe to win all three, and the first athlete ever to hold all three titles at the same time. Now, having won the Two Oceans again, she is on the brink of making history by winning all three in the same year, if she can repeat her Comrades win, and having run both Om Die Dam and Two Oceans fairly conservatively, she is looking odds on favourite to do so.
Before the race, W?stmann said that she would use the Two Oceans just as “a training run” in preparation for the Comrades in nine weeks, but once again she appeared to easily outrun the rest of the women without really having to exert herself. “I am very happy where I am in my training, although not quite in the same shape as I was last year, as I am planning to peak for the Comrades,” she said. “I think the absence of the Russians made the race slower than last year, and I was happy to let Tanith set the pace and to hang back in the main pack.” She said she then pushed hard for only the last 8km: “I asked myself, 'If I was running a time trial now, how do my legs feel?’ They didn't feel too bad.” W?stmann added that her aim is a another win and a sub-6 hour at Comrades, something that only Van der Merwe, American Ann Trason and Tatyana Zhirkova of Russia have done before. “I don't think this will mess up my Comrades,” she said.
In the men's race, the international contingent dominated as usual, but a strong wind buffeting the runners along Chapman's Peak Drive resulted in slower times overall. The win went to Zimbabwe’s Mike Fokoroni in 3:13:33, the slowest time since Phineas Makaba won in 3:15:06 as long ago as 1994. Three South Africans finished in the top ten, with former Comrades champion Modibe Ludwick Mamabolo taking sixth in 3:17:52.
Another highlight of the women’s race was the ultra-marathoning debut of SA all-time great Colleen De Reuck (51), who finished fifth in 3:53:07, demolishing the Master (50-59) age category course record and setting a new world age best at 50km of 3:27:38, shattering the previous time of 3:41:57 run by Brit Lavina Petrie in Canberra, Australia in 1994. Although now an American citizen, she received a rousing welcome everywhere she went pre-race, and the crowds loved her performance on race day as well. (Three other 50km records were also set: Fourth-placed woman Charne Bosman ran 3:24:46 for a South African record for veterans, as well as a WP open record, while the Pole Bogdan Barewski's 3:58:03 is a WP men’s open record for grandmasters.
Other notable finishes saw two runners, Tony Abrahamson and Louis Massyn, finish their 41st Two Oceans, in 5:08:44 and 6:08:24 respectively, to equal the all-time record held by the now retired Noel Stamper. These two grandmasters will pass that mark next year if they finish the 2017 Two Oceans.
The half marathon was missing a number of SA’s top runners, who were doing international duty at the World Half Marathon Champs in Cardiff, Wales on the same day, but the race still produced fast time. In the men's Half, Namakoe Nkhasi of Lesotho had to give everything in a sprint finish to beat SA track star Elroy Gelant by two seconds in a personal best of 1:03:38 – a mere three seconds slower than the course record held by three-time winner Stephen Mokoka, who was in Cardiff. The women’s race was dominated by Irvette van Zyle, who is the country’s fastest female half marathoner this year. She won easily in 1:13:14, just 31 seconds outside the course record, and more than four minutes clear of second-placed Onneile Dintwe of Botswana.