The 86th edition of the Comrades marathon has attracted 19617 entries the third largest ever and the second biggest field for an Up-Run.

Only the 24000 entries of the Millennium edition exceed this year’s field, which also enjoys greater international representation.

United Kingdom lead the international listing with 253 runners, followed  by United States (179), Australia (152), and Brazil which sees a massive increase from 78 last year to 115 this year.

Although both the percentage of novices (24%) and the gender balance (22% female) have decreased by 2% for the up-run the battles to be amongst the top ten gold medals looks to be even greater.

With Leonid Shvetsov retired and Stephen Muzhingi facing the pressure of earning a third successive win, there is every chance that the Comrades crown can change heads on 29 May.  In the last Up run in 2008 Muzhingi was third behind Shvetsov in five hours 39 minutes, and the two consecutive down runs could be slower as runners struggle to remember the rhythm and pacing of the more challenging run from the coast to the City of Choice.

Regular International contenders Jaroslaw Janicki, and World 100 mile recordholder Oleg Kharintonov are back with their vast experience, while Ludwick Mamabolo, the find of the 2010 down run, will be hoping to go one better with the change of direction.  Other regulars include Lucas Nonyana, Bongmusa Mthembu, Peter Molapo, Fusi Nhlapo, and Peter Muthubi will all be in the fray with local hopes supporting Bongmusa Mthembu who may have been a distant 52nd in the last Up run, but placed a well-paced third last year.

The Russian twins look to have the makings of another victory with the  seasoned Marina Myshlyanova who was 4th in 2008, Kami Semick from USA, Britain’s Lizzy Hawker and past winner Tatyana Zhirkhova leading he international contenders. Hawker who proved something of a surprise package to locals last year may again create an upset given her experience on hills and mountain running.

Locally few would look past Farwa Mentoor as first South African but expect a very close finish for the remaining gold medals where Lindsay van Aswegen, Leslie Train and Adinda Kurger will again stake their claims. KZN’s leading light looks to be Melanie van Rooyen who has come on in leaps and bounds in the last 6 months, but may prove to have been over enthusiastic with her racing schedule by 29 May.

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