Comrades Marathon three- time champion Stephen Muzhingi has been tipped to win his fourth straight event on Sunday when he defends his crown in a 19 000-men field.
His coach Cliff Chinnasamy said: If he is not mugged on the road or tripped at the start, I dont think anyone can stop Stephen.
Russian Leonid Shvetsov, the course record holder who Muzhingi dethroned in 2009, is back to lead the challenge by 883 international runners and 187 from Africa outside the host country.
If the 34-year-old Muzhingi wins on Sunday, he will receive prize money of R300 000 ($37 500) and an additional R300 000 if he breaks Shvetsovs down-run record of 5hr 20min 41secs set in 2007.
What gives the mighty Zimbabwean such astonishing world-class power? He says he eats rice before a big event to get him super-charged, which is why Zimbabwe company PRObrands, who are the leading rice suppliers to the nation, is one of his sponsors.
Zimbabwes 2011 Sportsman of the Year won the gruelling Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town in April this year, beating a field of more than 25 000 to earn R250 000 and in last Decembers famous New York City Marathon, he finished 33rd out of 47 000 runners to qualify for a special invitation as an elite athlete for the November 4 2012 epic.
The legendary South African Bruce Fordyce heads that list with nine Comrades victories, the last being in 1988, his eighth in a row. The veteran will be back on Sunday enjoying his 30th run.
Sundays Comrades Marathon holds more dangers than just steep uphills, Sowetan reports. The road from Maritzburg to Durban can be treacherous in parts, warned race director Johan van Staden.
And we have plans to fill and level up the road unevenness the night before the race. Uneven surfaces not potholes are some of the potential threats, he said.
Going down Polly Shortts is particularly bad.
Down Polly Shortts, there are no street lights, Van Staden warned the lead runners.
Weve put temporary lighting up all the way down Polly Shortts up to Ashburton. By the time the slow runners reach that point the sun will be coming up and they will be able to see (the road clearly).
Roadworks are not really affecting us. The area that is of concern is Cato Ridge there are a couple of big holes there, he said.