By Bob Norris
Early road racing in 2018 will further expose its potential at the EL Eye Hospital Laser 10km Challenge tomorrow morning.
The pipe opener 10km of last weekend proved that there remains a strong base of runners, joggers and walkers that enjoy organised running and while it showed some glimpses of good performances it did not tell the whole story.
That is not necessarily a surprise given it was the first race after a two-month layoff from serious competition.
The East London Athletic Club-hosted race tomorrow may give a better indication of things to follow, or at the very least the two races looked at together, should do.
This race is run on traditional road running surfaces and, although the start from the Beacon Bay Country Club goes up Batting Road and is therefore not designed to offer particularly fast times, the balance of the route is generally honest running material.
Last week Luthando Hejana of Real Gijimas and Hanlie Botha of Born 2 Run were runaway winners, and they are both likely to be back in action tomorrow.
There is speculation that Lukhanyo Ngxoko, Born 2 Run’s diminutive speedster may be in the field, though attempts to confirm this proved elusive. If he is, then the race is on, as he has been one of the few locals to beat Hejana.
That said, veteran runner, Siyabulela Madlavana did manage to do so over 10km in 2017, be it on one occasion. He was second last week.
Last weekend’s third-placed Vusumzi Zondo is a fine runner who, with the correct coaching and race tactics should be able to challenge for higher honours. Both men run in the same stable as Ngxoko.
In the women’s field a fit Botha has no peer over 10km and is the proverbial shoe-in for a second straight victory.
This time, however, it is unlikely to be as dominant a win as last week, given that Born 2 Run’s Stephanie Smith will be making her first appearance since November.
If that takes care on one and two, the third spot is where racing could be affected. Last week Andrea Ranger of Old Selbornians renewed her running duel with Born 2 Run’s Caryn Lategan and came out on top.
Behind them were numerous other good female runners and the jostling for positions will be intriguing.
Age-group running is possibly at an even more competitive level than for some time. Madlavana is way ahead of his rivals, but complacency has no place in sport and road running in particular.
The same applies to Born 2 Run’s SA Half Marathon champion, Makaya Masumpa, who suffered one, and only one shock defeat in 2017, when he was beaten at the Legends 60:11 half marathon by Port Elizabeth’s Desmond Zibi.
In the women’s veteran race Karen Davis wins more than most and will be the favourite for the second week running, while her Born 2 Run team- mate, Michelle Conroy makes her first appearance and should take second ahead of two other team members, Bonnie Currin and Janine Donaldson.
In the Masters category Run Walk for Life’s Sharon Wood currently has the upper hand and will look to cement her superiority over the likes of Born 2 Run’s Sherae Kreusch and Debbie Gee of Oxford Striders.
In the junior races it is Real Gijimas who are top of the standings in the male race and Born 2 Run is looking strong in the female version.