"The time has finally come, it’s one – we’re here for the record," manager of the Kenyan squad, Craig Fry, said at yesterday’s media conference for the powerful Nedbank Running Club in a city hotel.
"It’s taken six years in the planning. Every year I go to Kenya in November to check on my athletes and assess the races and goals for the next year. Last year I met up with (2:08 marathoner) Abraham Kiprotich who told me ‘the time is right – we need to assemble a team to take on the Two Oceans record."
Kiprotich, who runs under French citizenry, placed third at the Istanbul Marathon five months ago in 2 hrs 10 min and is the strong favourite for Saturday’s race. He will be supported in the record attempt by last year’s winner, Justin Chesire and four other top marathoners.
"If conditions are right I believe the record can be broken," said Kiprotich, in reference to Thompson Magawana’s 31 year old mark of 3 hrs 03 min 44 sec.
Earlier last year’s winner, Gerda Steyn, also reflected on the Two Oceans record – that of 3:30:36 by Frith van der Merwe. "It’s an impressive record. Frith had run a 2 hrs 27 min marathon when she set the mark, so I think we first need to concentrate on getting our marathon times down.
"But if everyone pulls together to go for it, it can be beaten. I don’t think this year, but some time in the future."
Her Nedbank team mate, Irvette van Zyl, will be running her first ultra-marathon but starts one of the favourites. "I’m a bit scared of the distance," Van Zyl laughted. "But I have a race plan and will stick to it and we will see what happens."
Top Polish marathon, Dominik Stelmach, was overtaken by Gerda Steyn in the closing stages of last year’s race and is hoping for better fortune on Saturday.
"I have been at a training camp in Kenya earlier this year and I think that will make a difference," Stelmach reflected. "I’m more of a mountain runner than road athlete, and I like the hills at Two Oceans. Hopefully Saturday will be my day."