Record holder back for 2012 Comrades
22 February 2012
Record holder Leonid Shvetsov will be back to take on three-time defending champion Stephen Muzhingi in the 2012 edition of the world's greatest ultra-marathon, South Africa's Comrades.
The event is recognised by Guinness World Records as the largest ultra-marathon in the world. It was first held in 1921 and is run annually between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, with the start alternating between the two.
Shvetsov, an Olympic marathoner and former Russian national record-holder, was victorious in both the 2007 and 2008 running of The Ultimate Human Race. The 42-year-old athlete, who will be running for the Nedbank Running Club, has four golds and one silver medal from his previous Comrades runs.
Shvetsov broke the Comrades "down-run" record in 2007, in a time of 5:20:49, to better the Comrades King Bruce Fordyce's mark that was set in 1986.
The following year, the rapid Russian also set a new standard of 5:24:49 for an "up-run". Muzhingi denied him a hat-trick of victories in 2009.
It was then that Shvetsov decided to declare his retirement from running. His announcement to return to the Comrades field is therefore an exciting and adrenaline-fuelled build-up to the epic event.
But, winning this year's race and reclaiming the glory from Muzhingi will be no mean feat. A very vocal and revved-up Muzhingi is adamant that he will be running off with his fourth Comrades win come Race Day.
Muzhingi said in a statement: "There is no pressure at all. If anything, after resting for two years, it is Mr Shvetsov who is under pressure. I am feeling good, I am prepared and I am focused on my victory!"
Muzhingi's coach, Cliff Chinsamy of Bluff Meats Formula One Running Club' echoed his sentiments, saying: "The 2012 Comrades Marathon is going to be a 'rumble in the jungle'. Stephen is well into his training regimen. He is focused, both mentally and physically, and he will be well prepared for a mighty good run."
Chinsamy added: "I don't think that Shvetsov will be any major challenge for my runner. I must admit, though, that we are anticipating some major contenders from southern Africa, both on home ground and surroundings, like Lesotho. The 2012 Comrades Marathon is most definitely the race to focus on."
Meanwhile, 1991 Comrades champion Nick Bester, Manager of the Nedbank Running Club said "Over the past four months, Shvetsov has been involved in intensive training and intends to be among this year's Comrades Top 10. He had intended to participate in the 2011 Race, but circumstances were not conducive."
Bester added: "What I can say is that Shvetsov is a champion, and as a foreigner he brings a good element of competition and rivalry to the Comrades field. It remains to be seen if our local runners will shine at the Comrades finish, but I do anticipate some outstanding runners from Kenya and Ethiopia."
The Comrades Marathon takes place on 3 June, starting at City Hall in Pietermaritzburg and finishing at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead in Durban.
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