TOP South African runner Hendrick Ramaala will face a real test of character in his bid to reclaim international glory on Sunday.
The vastly experienced Ramaala is hoping to achieve this in the 65th edition of the Lake Mainichi Marathon in Japan.
It will be the first time that Ramaala competes in the race, which is among the top races in the world.
Ramaala, who has been given the No 1 bib for the race, will face stiff opposition from runners from Africa and other parts of the world. Among those expected to test him is Yemane Tsegay, the Ethiopian who finished fourth at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin, Germany. Others include Moroccan Adil Annani, the 2009 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon winner and Charles Munyeki of Kenya who came fourth in the 2009 Chicago Marathon.
Also lining up on Sunday will be 2009 Zurich Marathon winner Abraham Tadesse of Eritrea and 2008 Debno Marathon champion Yuriy Hychun of Ukraine.
The Japanese will bank on their idols, such as the Shimizu twins, Masaya and Tomoya. They also have capable runners like Tomoyuki Sato and Yukihiro Kitaoka, who could prove a handful for their competitors on the day.
Ramaala is confident of a repeat of his first marathon in Asia in 2003, when the likeable 38-year-old won the inaugural Mumbai Marathon in India as a pacesetter .
The ASA interim board member told Sowetan yesterday: "The pressure in Japan will be less than at the London Marathon where we all chase a new world record. Though I'm well aware that it will not be an easy race, based on the list of top athletes who will compete on Sunday, I'm positive I will win the race.
"Those who will be competing should be worried that Hendrick Ramaala will also be taking part. I can't wait for Sunday."
Ramaala, who jetted off to Japan last night, has been invited to be a pacesetter at this year's London Marathon on April 25 .