Race ri­vals com­ple­ment each other

Gatebe and Kelehe will be fight­ing a per­sonal duel, but will pace or strength tri­umph?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - DARRYN POL­LOCK

LIKE heavy­weight box­ers be­fore a big-ticket match, the elite ath­letes for Sun­day’s 86,73 km Com­rades Marathon ‘up-run’ strut­ted their stuff in front of the me­dia, and their com­peti­tors, in Dur­ban yes­ter­day. How­ever, the big­gest hit­ter came in the form of a soft-spo­ken duo from the same club.

There is plenty of Com­rades ul­tra dis­tance roy­alty tak­ing part in this year’s race. From pre­vi­ous win­ners Claude Moshiywa ( 2013), and the out­spo­ken Lud­wick Mam­abolo (2012), to KwaZu­luNatal’s own Bong­musa Mthembu (2014), and that is just from the re­cent South African re­take of this il­lus­tri­ous race.

How­ever, most re­cently, Com­rades has been swooned by two men who have part­nered up un­der the colours of Tom­Tom this year. De­fend­ing ‘ up- run’ cham­pion, Gift Kelehe, and last year’s win­ner on the ‘down-run’ and record-breaker, David Gatebe.

Gatebe added to the South African pride when he as­sured an­other ti­tle for his coun­try last year, mak­ing it five in a row. But he also smashed a long stand­ing down-run record set by Rus­sian Leonid Shvetsov, fin­ish­ing the race in 5:18:19, be­fore fa­mously smash­ing out a few push-ups on the fin­ish line at Kingsmead.

Kelehe, a for­mer po­lice­man from Rusten­burg, who has now been re­de­ployed to Pre­to­ria to help with the train- ing of re­cruits, was an­other spe­cial story in his win in the last up run. He echoed his brother An­drew Kelehe’s achieve­ment some 14 years prior by win­ning in a time of 5:38:36, mas­ter­ing the hills on the way to Pi­eter­mar­itzburg.

These two have got to be the hot favourites for the men’s race, but as this is re­ally an in­di­vid­ual sport, what hap­pens when the fin­ish line looms and the team­mates are each within shot?

“I hope that both David, and my­self, are at the top of Polly Shortts to­gether, Kelehe said. “Be­cause then it will be ev­ery man for him­self ! Our coach, John Ham­lett, has said if that is the case, he will fold his arms and turn away as we race it out for the line to­gether.

“But it re­ally doesn’t mat­ter what the out­come is be­tween us, it has been a bless­ing and an hon­our to train with David for this race and I know with his speed, he will get the best out of me.”

In­deed, other than be­ing the form runners of this race over the last two in­stall­ments, Gatebe and Kelehe com­ple­ment each other well. Kelehe is no stranger to the hills of the up-run, while there is no doubt­ing Gatebe’s in­cred­i­ble speed. They are bound to work well to­gether and aid each other through the dif­fer­ent chal­lenges, in­clud­ing the other com­pe­ti­tion.

With the likes of Mam­bolo lay­ing an open chal­lenge to all the runners not from his team Ned­bank, the quiet Gatebe sim­ple stated that he would not need to run his mouth be­fore the race.

“When Sun­day comes, then I will do my talk­ing,” Gatebe said. “I will let my legs do the talk­ing and they can try and keep up with my pace.”

In terms of a strat­egy, much has been spo­ken about Polly Shortts, the fi­nal and daunt­ing hill be­fore the run into Pi­eter­mar­itzburg and the fin­ish line, but see­ing as how Kelehe made light work of it in the last ‘up-run’ it may well be his for the tak­ing again.

“The first man at the top of Polly Shortts will take it,” Kelehe pre­dicted.

The only caveat to that prob­a­bly is if Kelehe and Gatebe top the hill to­gether, as the most re­cent cham­pion has said: “If I top Polly Shortts first, I can’t be caught, those last 10km I will just fly down them!”

Un­for­tu­nately for the com­pet­i­tive­ness of the women’s race, the bur­geon­ing ri­valry be­tween 2015 up-run win­ner Caro­line Wost­mann and last year’s cham­pion Charne Bos­man will have to take a back­seat. Wost­mann with­drew with in­jury and Bos­man was sym­pa­thetic to her sit­u­a­tion.

“It is sad to see Caro­line fall out so soon be­fore the race, if it was me I would be dev­as­tated,” Bos­man sym­pa­thised. But there are plenty of other strong com­peti­tors, and I will just be out there to run my race, to fo­cus on my kilo­me­tres.”

Bos­man came sec­ond to Wost­man in the last up-run and would love to be the first South African since Frith van der Merwe in 1988/89 to win con­sec­u­tive races – up and down.

QUIET AP­PROACH: “I will let my legs do the talk­ing,” says David Gatebe, win­ner of the 2016 Com­rades Marathon.

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