Ra­maala prom­ises his full ef­fort in marathon

Weekend Witness - - Sport - NORRIE WIL­LIAMSON

MAS­TER marathoner Hen­drick Ra­maala and his pro­tégé Sibu­siso Mz­ima are in Moscow for this af­ter­noon’s World Marathon Cup show­down.

Ra­maala, South Africa’s most suc­cess­ful marathoner of re­cent years, has never liked long ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion pe­ri­ods, and cer­tainly the weather ap­pears to have changed dra­mat­i­cally from the blis­ter­ing heat and hu­mid­ity that greeted the women on the first day of the World Cham­pi­onships.

The weather fore­cast­ers are pre­dict­ing an af­ter­noon high of 22º Cel­sius and 53% hu­mid­ity, with a gen­tle six kilo­me­tre-per­hour wind — all of which will have nom­i­nal im­pact on the times in what should be an in­ter­est­ing race.

If con­di­tions are cool, the win­ning time could de­liver a new cham­pi­onships record be­low 2:05, but if there is hu­mid­ity, it will drop to 2:06/2:07 as the fo­cus changes to win­ning the ti­tle.

Five men — Kenyan Bernard Keoch and Ethiopi­ans Tadese Tola, Tsegaye Kebede, Fiysa Lelisa and Lil­isa De­sisa who won both Bos­ton and the pan­cake-flat Dubai marathon this year — have al­ready recorded 2:04 fin­ishes. This will be De­sisa’s third marathon of the year and that may count against him. But with a full team, the Ethiopi­ans look like the best bet for gold this time around.

At 42 years of age, Ra­maala is the old­est mem­ber of the South Af- ri­can team, but this has not damp­ened his en­thu­si­asm.

“I’m hop­ing this [World Cham­pi­onship] will be the best of the best, com­pared to the last six,” said the Jo­han­nes­burg-based ath­lete, who is at­tend­ing his sev­enth World Cham­pi­onship.

“My best po­si­tion was ninth in Paris 2003. This time, I’m hop­ing to im­prove on that,” con­tin­ued Ra­maala, who ran the 10 000 m in his first three world cham­pi­onships, be­gin­ning in Goten­burg in 1995, be­fore mov­ing up to the marathon in 2003.

The Moscow course is a fast one that starts and fin­ishes in the 1980 Olympic sta­dium, and has run­ners com­pete over a short lap be­fore com­plet­ing three more laps of 10 km to Red Square and back.

There were orig­i­nally 76 en­trants for the men’s marathon, with many coun­tries, South Africa in­cluded, en­ter­ing the min­i­mum of three run­ners to com­pete in the World Cup team event.

In 2005, South Africa had the ig­no­min­ious hon­our of all five team mem­bers fail­ing to fin­ish.

“The withdrawal of Lusapho [April] dealt a hard blow on us, be­cause we re­ally thought he was go­ing to be the man to watch. He was go­ing to be one of the po­ten­tial medal­lists at his best,” said Ra­maala, who ad­vises a num­ber of upand-com­ing ath­letes, in­clud­ing his team-mate Mz­ima.

“But we still have Subu­siso and my­self … You will see us up there. We will try our best,” he promised.

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