VETERAN Zimbabwean long distance runner Stephen Muzhingi says he will not be focusing too much on this year’s Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon on April 19 as he has set his sights on winning a fourth Comrades Marathon title in June.
By DANIEL NHAKANISO
Two years ago, Muzhingi became only the second man to hold both the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon and Comrades Marathon titles simultaneously.
The three-time winner of the Comrades Marathon, however, failed to defend his Two Oceans Marathon title last year after pulling out midway through the 56km ultra-marathon race due to injury.
The injury proved to be a major setback in the 2013 Comrades Marathon, but the seasoned long distance runner still managed to finish a respectable 10th.
In an interview with NewsDay Sport this week, Muzhingi said winning the Two Oceans in 2012 was a bonus and he would continue with his strategy of using it as a preparatory event.
“The Comrades Marathon is my main race each year that I focus on and so I prepare from November to December for the Comrades, and I work Two Oceans into the schedule as a good tester of my form before the Comrades, so I don’t specifically prepare for Two Oceans like other athletes do. So far I can’t complain as things have been going alright this year,” he said.
“Winning the 2012 Two Oceans was just a bonus as I focus on Comrades. During Two Oceans last year I picked up the injury on my right calf so I backed off during the race as I didn’t want to risk missing the Comrades.
“But the injury never got better and I was told that I shouldn’t even start the Comrades in 2013, but I had prepared and I have a commitment to my sponsors and supporters, so I decided to run the race anyway. The specialists told me that I would be lucky to make it to 10km into the race in 2013, so it was fantastic that I achieved a 10th place finish,” said Muzhingi.
“You always go into a race aiming to win, so we know that Two Oceans is for testing my form, so I will run to a specific time, but if the opportunity presents itself to go for a win then I will certainly do that. As for Comrades, well I have won it three times and have many gold medals, and if I am the best prepared athlete on the start line, then I will definitely want to win it again,” he said.
The entries for the 2014 edition of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon closed last Friday with the organisers saying there were expecting a world-class field of long distance runners from Kenya, USA, Zimbabwe, Great Britain, and other African countries.
Zimbabwe will as always have a strong presence in both fields for the Two Oceans and Comrades and Muzhingi said he was hopeful that local runners would do well.
“Zimbabwe always has a good showing at the Two Oceans and Comrades as we are strong runners and seem to do better in the longer races.
Point Chaza, Mike Fokoroni Collen Makaza and Prodigal Khumalo will be there and it would be great for Zimbabwe if as a country we can get two or three runners in the top 10 places and even a win.”