JOHANNESBURG — Zimbabwean long-distance king Stephen Muzhingi can expect the toughest Comrades Marathon challenge of his career when he lines up next week chasing a fourth straight win, according to his coach, Cliff Chinnasamy.
“I expect it to be an exciting race, something to see,” Chinnasamy said on Thursday.
“Things are shaping up really well and from what I understand, many top athletes are coming here from all over the world this year wanting to win it.
“The 2009 race was a fantastic one, but 2010 and 2011 were too boring, there wasn’t any competition.
“Win or lose, I think this one will be good.”
Russian Leonid Shvetsov, the man Muzhingi dethroned to win the first of his titles in 2009, will lead the foreign charge after coming out of retirement this year, while the South African challenge is expected to be spearheaded by Fanie Machipa.
Chinnasamy, however, is unconcerned about the competition faced by his athlete, who won the Two Oceans title in Cape Town earlier this year.
“The main threat is the finish line . . . I don’t think there’s anyone else that can stop him,” the coach said.
“If he is not mugged on the road or tripped at the start or people unfairly disrupt his run, there’s nothing that’s going to stop him from making it No Four.
“If those things happen, then you tend to lose the race before you even start.
“If he gets out well and is well watched by the officials, he’ll have no problems.”
Muzhingi wrapped up his main preparations for the race, a “down” run between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, last week and is enjoying a tapered training schedule ahead of the June 3 event.
The 88th edition of the Comrades will see a record field of 19 524 competitors running the 89 kilometres race.
Organisers have warned athletes to be wary of the road works taking place around Pietermaritzburg when they plan their arrival at the start line.
They have also cautioned against the extreme cold temperatures expected during the early part of the morning.
“Everything is steamrolling ahead for a fantastic 2012 edition of the race,” said race director Johan van Staden.
“The one potential hiccup is the ongoing road works and the usual road closures.
“Pietermaritzburg’s early winter days usually experience an average temperature of three degrees, which can be quite harsh, so athletes should come prepared and stay protected from the cold.”