a russian revolution

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

It's all systems go for more than 11000 marathoners from 45 countries around the world to prove their mettle when they compete in the Up Run of the Comrades Marathon in KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday.

The race, which is the world's biggest ultra event, starts at the City Hall in Durban at 5.30am and ends at The Oval in Pietermaritzburg.

Many people who have been following the Comrades are wondering if the Russian juggernaut will be stopped in Sunday's race.

The Russians are the reigning champions in the men's and women's categories and are back to defend their titles.

Leonid Shvetsov is the men's king and Olesya Nurgalieva the women's queen.

Though the Russians have the ability to win again this year, some South African marathoners are confident they will hold their own against the foreigners on Sunday.

Sipho Ngomane, the 2005 winner of the Down Run, believes he is in the best shape for the race.

"My tactics were wrong in my last appearance in the uphill as I went out too hard but I'm ready this time round. I know people say I can only run downhill, but this year things will be different,'' Ngomane said.

Leboka Noto, who finished 10th in 2006 and fifth last year, also believes he can do much better this time round.

Other local runners who should compete for medals on Sunday include Forever Resort Loskop Marathon winner Harmans Mokgadi and Mncedisi Mkhize.

Local women athletes such as Farwa Mentoor and Riana van Niekerk should challenge for honours in this category.

Meanwhile, the Comrades Marathon Association, the custodian of the race, will adopt a more stringent approach for the health, safety and welfare of the participants on Sunday.

This follows the tragic death of two runners last year.

The CMA will provide extensive medical, emergency and physiotherapy services along the route as well as medical marshals.