JOHANNESBURG – Amidst talk of the Kenyan runners set to descend on Cape Town with the sole intention of bagging the R1m incentive for breaking the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon record, the man who knows what it takes to win “the world’s most beautiful race” has been going about his preparations quietly.
The East Africans reigned supreme last year courtesy of Justin Chesire. With five of them on Saturday’s start list, the men from East Africa are being talked up as having the potential to smash Thomson Magawana’s 3:03:44 record.
But rule out David Gatebe at your peril. The 2013 champion has been doing the kind of work that can see him not only improve on last year’s third place finish but do so in a time that will see him hold the records of both the country’s premier ultras.
The Comrades Marathon’s down run record holder says he knows what to do to be crowned king again.
“When Magawana set the record, he went all out from the onset and did not allow the pack to dictate the pace.
“And when I won the race in 2013, I left early and no one followed me because they were still sussing each other out. I ran a 3:08:54. Not too far out from the record,” Gatebe explained.
“Because those guys (from Kenya) run as a group and help each other, I need to be smart in how I run.
“The problem here in South Africa is that we do not help each other.
“It is always each man for himself and a lot of runners are just content with beating Gatebe or Bongumusa (Mthembu). I know my race is against the Kenyans and I learnt a lot from last year’s race.”
Gatebe is pleased the Kenyans plan to chase the record.
“If the weather is right, no rain and very little wind if any – then it is possible the record can be broken. All I need to do is stick with them all the way until there is about 10km to go.
“I know I have the speed to outrun them at the end.”
That speed was evident at last weekend’s Loskop Dam Marathon where the Impala Mines athlete sped away from the rest. He did 30km of the 50km race as he was training for Two Oceans. But he looked comfortable and had opened up such a huge gap he probably would have gotten closer to the course record had he gone all the way.
“I was just doing speedwork at Loskop and I was happy I could easily hold three minutes/3:10 on the hills and I was going at about 2.50 to 2.55 on the downs.”
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Run that way on Saturday and Gatebe is in no doubt he will be en route to a second OMTOM title.
“If these guys (Kenyans) can get to the marathon mark at about 2:14 or 2:15 then the record will fall.
“As long as I am there or just a minute or so behind them because I know I will capitalise on Constantia (Nek).”