On parade: SA’s Gerda Steyn and Bongmusa Mthembu showed the field a clean pair of heels at the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in Cape Town on Saturday. Picture: IMAGESA/GALLO IMAGES
On parade: SA’s Gerda Steyn and Bongmusa Mthembu showed the field a clean pair of heels at the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in Cape Town on Saturday. Picture: IMAGESA/GALLO IMAGES

Cape Town — Bongumusa Mthembu has his sights on a fourth Comrades Marathon crown.

The 35-year first-time winner of the 50th Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town on Saturday says he will rest a bit and then start preparing for the defence of his Comrades title.

“That’s my next big race coming up in June, one I plan to win again. I feel good about life right now and am proud to have won the Two Oceans title for us locals in what was a one-two finish.

“It’s important for us to win our big races and show that we can mix it with the best athletes in Africa, especially those from Kenya who were touted as race favourites but could only muster a third-placed finish,” Mthembu said.

The athlete  from KwaZulu-Natal clocked 3hr 8min 40sec for the 56km Oceans route to get home ahead of former Comrades winner David Katepe. The pair will once again meet in the toughest ultra-marathon of all, Comrades, and what a duel lies in store over the 87km up-run  from Durban to Pietermaritzburg.

“It’s always a nice feeling when all your hard training is rewarded with a win and being able to hang in tough mentally goes a long way in getting you the desired result,” said Mthembu. “I was born to run and my feet have given me so much joy over the years.

“Experience is a key attribute too. That came to the fore on Sunday; the guys took off at the start and paid for it later. The weather conditions had to be managed correctly and without a pace maker in the wind and rain you had to plan a good race in your head and execute it at the right time, and for me that was going to be after the 40km mark, and the rest is history.

“It is time now for recovery training and spending time with family and friends, before plotting the road ahead.”

No doubt Katepe, who finished just under 2min behind Mthembu, will be looking to reverse the result at Comrades. He is the holder of the fastest downhill time achieved in 2016. That will count for little going the other way but he has the speed to make a fist of it as long as he is in the firing line come the sharp-end of the race.

Gerda Steyn’s easy defence of her Two Oceans title in 3:31:28 was just  44sec shy of the  record set in 1989 by  Frith van der Merwe.

Steyn was aggressive from the start and once over Ou Kaapse Weg she stepped on the gas to see off two challengers, surged clear and came home lonely, the gap back to second-placed Mamorallo Tjoka of Leshotho close on 7min. Irvette van Zyl rounded off the podium.

The versatile Steyn will be going for a hat-trick of wins in 2020  and is gunning for Frith’s record.

“It was a dream come true winning this race. Thanks must go the way of my club, team, family and fiancé who were  behind me every stride of the way,” she said.

For someone who was never an athlete growing up, one can only admire Steyn for what she has achieved.