“I’m coming here to break the record,” the words of Russia’s Nina Podnebesnova upon her announcement that she will be running the 2011 Soweto Marathon.
Since making her debut at the distance in 2004 in Moscow at their National Championships where she finished 5th, Podnebesnova has dropped her marathon time from 2:41;18 to a highly competitive 2:31;37 last year – also run in Moscow, when she finished 3rd at the National Championships. Running in the colours of Nedbank, the 31 year-old is clearly strong and will not be intimidated by the hills in the latter part of the race. She will also have learned from her mistake at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon earlier this year, where she went off too hard and faded to 5th – still a solid performance in her debut attempt. (she clocked 3:43;56)
The course record stands behind the name of Rene Kalmer who debuted in the marathon distance here in 2009. Kalmer, out for a “training run” clocked 2:43;54 for the record and the win. Kalmer has since gone on to run 2:34;47 in Prague in May this year, which makes her 3 minutes slower than Podnebesnova. If her preparation is right, the Russian should break the record and possibly even dip under 2:40 for the tough course.
Competition is to come from Farwa Mentoor, in the absence of Kalmer, and rumour has it that Irvette van Blerk will be debuting in the marathon on Sunday. Van Blerk has a half marathon time of 70:56 which she ran in New York earlier this year. That is some 4 minutes faster than Podnebesnova, however the Russian has the experience, and, being a novice, van Blerk will not know what lies ahead. Mentoor carries the distinction of being known as the first South African home on a number of occasions at the Comrades Marathon. Her best ever Marathon was run at the National Championships earlier this year when she clocked 2:54;50. She will need her best marathon ever if she is to challenge the Russian, despite having trained at the Potchefstroom High Performance Centre since 9 October.