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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I'm not a contender. I’m a potential contender' - Mokoka explains Two Oceans debut

When the Hollywood Athletics Club announced their list of top runners for next month’s Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon earlier this morning, one name stood out from the rest. Alongside 2022 runners-up Irvette van Zyl and Nkosikhona Mhlakwana was the name of Stephen Mokoka. The 2:06:42 marathoner's decision to make his Two Oceans 56km marathon debut has set tongues wagging about the end of his international big city marathon career and the start of his South African ultra marathon chapter. But according to the man himself, that is not the case. Running his first Two Oceans is all about preparation for the Olympic Games.

"Me and my coach and our entire team, we work in terms of plans and programmes. We noticed that this year’s Olympics has an elevation of 400m and I’m a person who always races in flat and fast races. In the past I have refused to run New York or Boston because we always say it's a muscular race," he told a room full of journalists who had gathered for the announcement.

Mokoka on his way to beating SA's finest ultra marathoners to win the 2022 Nedbank Runified 50km in a new World Record. Although he that debut over 50km was a sensational one, he has warned that the same should not be expected of him for his 56km debut at Two Oceans. Photo Credit: Tobias Ginsberg.

"So that’s why with my coach last year we decided to rather have a marathon early for my base training. Then adjust the volume and do Two Oceans so that we push the programme a bit higher and work on the hills because I believe that Two Oceans has an elevation of almost a kilometre. So having to run that and climb Chapman’s Peak as well, I believe that going down to the marathon programme it will be easier. If things go well with the programme and be injury free and be ready on the day. We will see how the hills have treated. So with this kind of the race my body might gain more strength and I will be stronger for the Olympics."

While the reasons for tackling the race make sense for a man who took fifth place at the 2019 World Championships Marathon, what about winning? Readers of this publication will know that the 39-year-old not only won the race but also set a World Record when he debuted over 50km at the 2022 Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers 50km. On this one Tshipi, as he is affectionately known, played his cards close to his chest.

"I’m not a contender. I’m a potential contender. For now I’m taking everything step by step . I normally race 2 hours plus and now I’m going to run 3 hors plus. The intensity is not bad it’s just the volume. You have to run like a mad person. You have to do so many long runs. Most important thing is to pace myself very nicely and keep my heart rate nice. Then anyone who can go through 44km at that last incline with them is in the race. My first goal is to finish the race."

Steyn and van Zyl flying down the Chapman's Peak during the 2022 Two Oceans Marathon. Photo Credit: Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon Media.

In the women’s 56km race, The Purple Team will be buoyed by the return of Irvette van Zyl. After missing out on last year’s race due to injury, the woman who finished in second place after a gruelling duel against Gerda Steyn in 2022 is champing at the bit to be part of the race before representing South Africa at a fourth Olympic Marathon in Paris in August.

"I’m quite excited to be back running Two Oceans. I know last year when I was watching them race it was really hard from the gun going off to when they broke the finish tape. My heart broke. I didn’t know that someone could be so sad. I was really tough." The Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon takes place on the weekend of the 13th and 14th of April. The 56km shall be run on Saturday the 13th, with the half marathon on Sunday the 14th.

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