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Can Muzhingi make it four?

The 88th edition of The Comrades Marathon is an 89-kilometre down run race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

Muzhingi, who is in top form after winning the Two Oceans Marathon in April for the first time, will be under pressure as this year’s edition of the Comrades Marathon has attracted a record 19 000 runners from all over the world.

Speaking to the press ahead of the race, Muzhingi’s coach Cliff Chinnasamy tipped the Zimbabwean to win his fourth straight title.

“If he is not mugged on the road or tripped at the start, I don’t think anyone can stop Stephen,” Chinnasamy said.

According to Gilbert Munetsi, Muzhingi’s publicist, the athlete has for the past year gained recognition after he was given a Diplomatic passport which he used when he travelled to America for the Big Apple Marathon.

“It is too late for the government to organise fans to go and cheer Muzhingi, but in partnership with youth minister Saviour Kasukuwere, we are organising something for his welcome next week.”

Last year Baker’s Inn made sure that Muzhingi’s wife and kid travelled to South Africa ahead of the race, something they have repeated this year.

“We also hope that our South Africa-based employees will be there to cheer up Muzhingi,” said an official from Baker’s Inn.

Muzhingi is aiming at breaking records this time around.

“Stephen is also looking forward to breaking the standing down run record time of 5hrs 20 mins 49 sec set by Russian legend, Leonid Shvetsov in 2008,” Chinnasamy added.

Shvetsov has the distinction of holding the record for both the up and down runs. The up run record of 5:24;49 was set in 2007 with the down run time of 5;20;49 set in 2008.

Among those who will be at the starting line tomorrow is Shvetsov, who has made a surprise return to the race after going into semi-retirement for three years. Shvetsov retired in 2009 after losing the title to Muzhingi.

Also under the spotlight would be Nedbank Comrades stars, Claude Moshiwa and Sergey Lukin, who have both qualified to take part in this race. Lukin will run his first ever Comrades Marathon race. He has run several fast marathons with a best of 2:10 in Eindhoven in 2003.

Should Muzhingi win, he will become only the second runner in history, since Derek Preiss, to win both the Two Oceans and Comrades ultra marathons in the same year.

The King of Comrades, Bruce Fordyce, will also make a comeback, but this time for silver on his 30th Comrades. Fordyce still holds the record— having won nine Comrades — seven of these in consecutive years.

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