Can Caroline Wöstmann (Nedbank) become only the fourth athlete to win the Comrades and the Two Oceans ultra-races in the same year? This is definitely one of the more interesting talking points in the build-up to Sunday’s Comrades race from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. To even speculate about a South African woman being able to win is exciting because during the past two decades the women’s races at the Comrades and the Two Oceans have been dominated by international athletes.
Rae Bisschoff (1998) was the last South African woman who has won the Comrades. Earlier this year Wöstmann at long last broke the 15-year winning drought at the Two Oceans with her victory. Sarah Mahlangu won the Two Oceans in 2000.
As far as winning the Comrades and Two Oceans in the same year is concerned it is only Derek Preiss (1974 and 1975), Frith Van Der Merwe (1989) and Elena Nurgalieva (Russia – 2004 and 2012) who have been able to do so. Wöstmann’s coach, Lindsey Parry (Tuks/HPC), is confident that she might just be able to make running history on Sunday. Parry says: ‘I forced Caroline to do a proper recovery during the week after she had won the Two Oceans and then I started to slowly build her up again. We certainly did not rush back to full training. I was surprised to see how well she had recovered. It would have been unnatural not to be worried. I certainly was worried, therefore I carefully monitored every training session Caroline has done since winning the Two Oceans and I am very happy with the way she has bounced back. So I am very positive about Sunday. We have a race plan that effectively ensures that she holds back for the first 50 or so kilometres. From then on it will depend on how she feels. Judging by what has happened at the Two Oceans, we won’t actually know what she is capable of until up to that moment. Our whole training strategy has been aimed at helping Caroline to take control over the last 30 kilometres. Caroline will face her biggest challenge over the first 30 kilometres because the pace that she is comfortable with is too fast for what she needs to be doing. So it will boil down to whether she has the discipline to control herself.’
When Wöstmann was asked how she feels about winning the Comrades and Two Oceans in the same year, her response was: ‘Would it not be awesome to be able to compare myself with someone like Frith Van Der Merwe?’ However, she is quite realistic about the fact that talking about winning the Comrades and actually winning are two totally different matters. She says: ‘I can only do what I am able to do. In other words, I can only run the race I am capable of running. If it is a bad day and I “bum” out, so be it. All that matters to me is to know that I have run to the best of my abilities on the day. If everything goes as well as it did with the Two Oceans, I might just be in with a chance. But the Comrades is a very unpredictable race in which anything can happen. It is certainly not only a matter of “vasbyt” for 10 kilometres. You have to run 88 kilometres.’
According to Wöstmann she has run approximately 3 000 kilometres in her five-month build-up to the Comrades which roughly equate to between 140 tot 160 kilometres per week.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott