WHEN Ludwick Mamabolo won the 2012 Comrades Marathon, it was a groundbreaking victory on all levels.
It was the first win by a South African since Sipho Ngomane in 2005, breaking the foreign hegemony the race had become accustomed to.
Zimbabwean Stephen Muzhingi and Russians Leonid Shvetsov and Oleg Kharitonov made the race their own, before Mamabolo finally made it a South African affair.
Since that breakthrough, local domination has begun taking root and Mamabolo hopes that will not change.
“I’m one of those who started the project of dethroning foreigners and that makes me very happy. I’m very happy that the race is now dominated by South Africans in both races. “It’s a motivation to go to the Comrades knowing full well that you’re up against competitive South African athletes,” Mamabolo said.
Sunday’s 91st edition will see the past four winners square up against each other.
Muzhingi, who earned himself a hat-trick between 2009 and 2011, is also set to grace the down run, but he has been below par in the past four editions.
South African athletes also have to make up for going AWOL in last year’s up run won by Gift Kelehe. In the top 10, there were only four South African runners compared with seven in the 2014 down run.
Mamabolo finished second behind Bongmusa Mthembu, who will be back to defend his title, while Kelehe lurks ominously in the shadows.
Should Kelehe win, he will become the first South African since Bruce Fordyce in 1988 to win the race back-to-back.
Mamabolo seems to thrive on the high level of competition and knows the higher the quality of the field, the better it will be for him. After all, the race has not seen a back-to-back winner since Muzhingi’s treble.
“I’m always excited to run with the former winners and the defending champions. I believe that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.
“You can’t be the best if you’re running alone. With their competition, it will make it easier for me and will put me under less pressure,” said Mamabolo.
“There will be five guys that everyone will be focusing on and I’ll be focusing on myself,” Mamabolo said. “I’m relaxed at the moment and I’m not under any pressure. I think I’ll start to feel the pressure on the day .”