Elite Green Dream Team going for a second quadruple Two Oceans win
The Nedbank Green Dream Team – 38 elite athletes from the Nedbank Running Club - will be in full flight at this year’s Old Mutual Two Ocean’s Marathon (OMTOM) in Cape Town at the end of March. Guts, stamina and the rewards of their hard training will be the order of the day for these athletes, including 25 men and 13 women.
‘Last year we took first place in all four OMTOM races – the men and women’s 56km ultra marathon and the men and women’s 21.1km half marathon, and we’re hoping to repeat and better this, as we have the potential to clinch most of the top five places in all four races,’ says Nick Bester, National Manager of the Nedbank Running Club.
The men’s Two Oceans record is a killer to beat at 3:03:44 but there might be a few surprises from Nedbank Green Dream Team 2017 OMTOM winner, Lungile Gonqa, as well as Mike Fokoroni, Mathandazo Qhina and Ludwick Mamabolo. The 56km women to beat from the Nedbank Green Dream Team include Ntombesintu Mfunzi, Gerda Steyn (who is coached by Bester) and 2017 Comrades winner Charne Bosman and Mammorola Tjoka.
The men's 21 km leaders include the 2017 OMTOM winner Namakoe Nkhasi, David Manja, Donald Mathipa and Joel Mmone. In the women's half-marathon, names to watch are 2017 OMTOM winner Irvette van Zyl, Rutendo Nyahora and Genet Habela Abdukadir (both from Ethiopia).
The Nedbank Running Club dominates all of South Africa’s major road races, including the Comrades, Two Oceans and Soweto marathons. ‘It has taken many years of supporting our runners to get here. This is what we work for and this year we have gone all out to support our athletes,' says Bester who launched the Nedbank Running Club ten years ago in 2008. Over the past 10 years he has grown it to over 4 500 members.
In consideration of Cape Town’s water crisis, the Nedbank Running Club will be taking their own water with them from Joburg to the OMTOM. They will also take their bottles home so as not to dump them on Cape Town.
The Nedbank Green Dream Teamers will be wearing their striking new running kit. ‘We are most appreciative of the great sponsors we have for our top athletes, including Nedbank, Nike, Biogen and FutureLife,’ says Bester. ‘We support our top athletes with retainers and their running kit, shoes and flights are all covered. Most of them also have jobs and they need to plan their schedules carefully and lead very disciplined lives to achieve at this level.’
All the elite athletes’ drinks bottles will be filled the night before the event and sealed by the officials and the seals will only be broken at the water point on the day. ‘Drug Free Sports in South Africa is very strict about monitoring for any form of illegal substance as part of a drug sport-free explains Bester. ‘Biogen, who supply all the supplements and vitamins for our athletes, has each batch tested in the UK for illegal substances by Informed Sport.’
To prepare for the Two Oceans the elite athletes have been running between 100 and 200kms per week, they have done two to three strength sessions per week, four cross-training sessions per week, as well as hiking, cycling and swimming and having regular massages. They need to sleep well, eat well and develop as much mental strength as muscular strength. ‘In ultra-marathon running it’s not the fastest runner that wins the race, it’s the strongest, and the longer the race the more your strength counts,’ says Bester.
The Nedbank Running Club looks for athletic talent in all of South Africa’s communities, rural and urban, and they start training youngsters for marathon running from the age of 15. ‘It takes at least ten years of continuous development for them to reach their peak,' says Bester.
The Nedbank Running Club has 13 clubs nationally, as well as clubs in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Ethiopia. Each of which is responsible for supporting runners at all levels and identifying and nurturing development athletes. To grow promising young runners there are currently five Nedbank Development Running Clubs in different parts of the country, including Soweto, Pretoria, Klerksdorp/Central North West, East London and Bloemfontein. They have approximately 350 members. 'It is vital that we look after the next generation by growing our development programmes,' says Bester.
Forty to fifty percent of the athletes in the South African national team in all distances have come through the Nedbank Running Club's development programmes. The club has several legendary athletes on its staff, including former marathon athlete, Pio Mpolokeng who manages the training of the Nedbank group of athletes situated in the Central North West Province. Fifty percent of the South African teams competing in championship events typically come from the Nedbank Running Club Development programme.
'Through the work that we do we see the difference that running makes to people's lives', says Mpolokeng 'We are currently working on increasing the number of runners with talent and bringing them from all over – from our cities, villages and other African countries – to train with our clubs and build a strong talent base and sense of unity.'