Updated: May 21, 2016

With a host of athletes capable of winning a wide-open men’s race, the women’s contest at next week’s Comrades Marathon could provide more excitement, with a number of world-class athletes chasing Caroline Wostmann, who enters the race with a target on her back after a string of impressive victories.
Among those tipped to challenge Wostmann for the win is Colleen de Reuck, one of the country’s most accomplished distance runners, who will make her Comrades debut.
De Reuck, who now represents the United States, lines up as one of Wostmann’s KPMG Running Club teammates, and she said this week she was delighted to be returning “home” for South Africa’s most prestigious road race.
“I am excited. This has been a dream of mine for a very long time,” she said.
“I used to support my brother (Collin Lindeque) and we grew up on the route supporting our dad when he used to run.
“This is further than I have ever gone, so I am apprehensive, but I have done the work and will just do my best on race day.”
De Reuck enters the race with a remarkable pedigree, and though she is 52 years old, the four-time Olympian and former World Cross Country Championships medallist will rely on her vast experience over shorter distances to carry her on the 89km journey between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.
She still holds the SA marathon record of 2:26:35, which she set in winning the Berlin Marathon in 1996, and remains second behind Elana Meyer in the SA all-time rankings over 10km (31:16), 15km (48:19) and 21km (68:38).
After finishing fifth in her maiden ultra-distance race in March, at the Two Oceans 56km event in Cape Town, De Reuck admitted she was not sure how her body would react to the additional distance at the gruelling contest in KwaZulu-Natal, and was cautious in her prediction.
“I will be overjoyed with a top 10, but as I have never run the race I have no idea what to expect,” she said.
“I will run at around 7:15/mile (4:30/km) to make sure that for the last 20 miles (32km) I am able race.”
While Russian athletes have been banned from the race due to a doping scandal involving their national federation, including multiple winners Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva, and world 50km and 100km champion Camille Herron of the US has withdrawn injured, De Reuck and Wostmann will have to be at their best against a strong women’s field.
The line-up includes local athlete Charne Bosman, who was second last year, British athlete Ellie Greenwood, the defending ‘down’ run champion, and Sweden’s Kasja Berg, the silver medallist at last year’s 100km World Championships.
Despite the powerful line-up, Wostmann said she was confident the pace would not be fast from the start, with athletes trying to key off each other rather than opening big gaps and holding on.
Having clocked 6:12:22 to win last year’s ‘up’ run, less than three minutes outside the course record, Wostmann has been tipped to give Frith van der Merwe’s 27-year-old ‘down’ run record of 5:54:43 a real shake.
But Wostmann, who defended her Two Oceans title in the build-up to the race, insisted she would start conservatively, as she did last year, and only aim for the record if it was in her sights in the closing stages.
“If you are 20 minutes ahead at halfway it means nothing in terms of where you will finish, and if anything you might not finish at all if you start that fast,” Wostmann said.
“I don’t think any of the women in the elite field, who are all experienced runners, will be silly enough to go out at sub-six hour pace in the first half.
“If they do, it will make the race very exciting, and I wish them well.”