2013 Two Oceans Marathon Women’s Preview

A preview of the stacked women’s field at the 2013 Two Oceans Marathon in South Africa.

By on March 28, 2013 | Comments

The 2013 Marathon Two Oceans 56k (34.8 miles) men’s field has been covered already, so here are details about the women’s field.


2013 Two Oceans Marathon - men's previewOne aspect not mentioned in the previous article is the different medals for different finish times, like the different buckles for sub-24 hours and finishing under the cut-off of a 100-miler. The top 10 men and women win actual gold medals, then everyone under four hours earns the coveted silver medal (equivalent to 3-hour marathon pace), which very few women receive since going at that pace usually wins a gold medal. For example, last year only one woman was sub-4 hours but not in the top 10.

Sub-5 hours wins a Sainsbury medal, sub-6 hours a bronze medal, and, finally, a blue medal for finishing under the strict 7-hour cut-off.

Two Oceans Marathon - Course Map

The Two Oceans Marathon course map.

Women’s Course Record

3:30:36 (6:03/mile pace) – Frith Van der Merwe, 1989

The world best for 50k was set as a split within Two Oceans course record at 3:08. Bear in mind that the 50k mark is just after both climbs so the real race for positions often occurs after that.

Two Oceans Marathon - elevation profile

The Two Oceans Marathon elevation profile.

Prize money

In South Africa they’ve offered large prize purses for many years. At Two Oceans at current exchange rates there’s the equivalent of $27,000 for the winner, $13,500 for second and $7,000 for third and these are before sponsor or course record bonuses, which add a significant amount extra. Prize money goes 10 deep plus age category prizes.

The Extremely Long Women’s Elite List

The elite women are no slouches, with many who have marathon PRs under 2:40 and the favorites being sub-2:30 runners. However, unlike the men’s field where it’s impossible to pick the podium, it’s almost certainly a four-way race between women who are so dominant they’d win almost any race they enter.

The Russian twins, Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva have won seven of the past nine Two Oceans ultras (four for Elena and three for Olesya) with best times just off the course record. Elena’s 2:29 marathon PR is beaten in this field only by Olesya’s 2:27 and Natalia (see below), but the most impressive stat is their total dominance of Comrades for a decade. Between them they have nine Comrades wins and seven second places with Elena dominating at the longer distance with seven of those wins, including the past three years. These two tend to run side by side for most of the race, but Olesya took 2012 off to have a baby, effectively handing wins to her sister.

The third lady who is likely to battle for the win is someone more familiar to iRunFar readers, Ellie Greenwood. Apart from her near invincibility in North America, Ellie’s placed fourth and second in the past two Comrades runs, including leading for parts of last year’s race and finishing in 6:08, just a minute behind Elena. This is her first Two Oceans and it helps she just ran a half marathon PR of 1:18. Ellie’s 2:42 marathon PR may not be fast compared to some of the runners, but she has the endurance for this distance and is four years younger than the 37-year old twins, plus she pushed Elena to her limit at Comrades.

Also, the fastest marathoner of the whole field is 36-year old Natalia Volgina (Russia), although her PR of 2:27 is only 5 seconds faster than Olesya and is from the 2006 Paris Marathon. She’s been second three times at Two Oceans and won in 2002 with the third fastest time ever – one of those 2nds was last year so she’s definitely a favorite. She was second at Comrades in 2002 and eighth last year, but she’s mainly focused on half and full marathons in recent years.

Contenders for the Rest of the Top 10

Devon Yanko (née Crosby-Helms) (USA) isn’t running this year after getting 3rd last year. So the next contender most likely to challenge the four women above is Nina Podnebesnova (Russia), a 2:31 marathoner who hasn’t nailed the long distances yet (5th at Two Oceans and 13th at Comrades last year), but she has the most potential.

37-year old Marina Bychkova (née Zhalybina) (Russia) is a perennial podium finisher at both Comrades and Two Oceans, but has slowed now she’s 37. Her marathon PR is 2:37 from 2006 and her fastest Two Oceans was 3:41 in 2005, but even last year she was still 3rd at Comrades behind Ellie and Elena. Mamorallo Tjoka (Lesotho) returns after 3rd then 4th in the past two races and a 2:39 marathon PR from 2008, but she’s only 28 so may not have peaked.

Samukeliso Moyo (Zimbabwe) is one of the faster runners, but her 2:37 marathon PR has slipped to the mid-2:40s recently although she’s been top 10 the past five starts, including 5th last year in 3:49. Lizih Chokore (Zimbabwe) was 7th last year and is a 2:48 marathoner. Kerry Koen (South Africa) has been in and around the top 10 for several years at Two Oceans and made the top 10 for the past two Comrades races. Last year’s 8th place, Ntombesintu Mfunzi (South Africa), is a 2:49 marathoner and pipped 2:45 marathoner Tshifhiwa Mundalamo (South Africa) into 9th last year. Last year’s 10th place also returns – Paulina Njeja (South Africa), who ran a 2:48 marathon in 2009 but her best road ultra result was that 10th place.

Farwa Mentoor (South Africa) has been one of the top locals at both Two Oceans and Comrades with numerous top 10s for years, but now she’s 39 years old and finished 17th at the 2012 Two Oceans and DNFed Comrades. Riana Van Niekerk is the other top South African of recent years at Comrades and Two Oceans, with several top 10s in both and a 2007 marathon PR of 2:43, but she didn’t run last year’s Two Oceans and DNFed Comrades.

Julanie Basson (South Africa) was 11th last year and runs a sub-3 hour marathon, as does Jennifer Koech (Kenya).

Two Oceans 56k Debuts

US interest comes in the form of 2:37 marathoner, Camille Herron, who steps up to this distance for the first time and there don’t seem to be any ultra results for her previously, so there’s certainly a question mark about how she’ll deal with the extra miles and hills but she should be around the leaders.

2:39 marathoner, Charné Bosman, has represented South Africa in the World Half Marathon Championships and the Commonwealth Games Marathon so should be one to watch in what appears to be her first ultra. Another fast lady, Mpho Mambuza, has also represented South Africa in the half marathon and ran a 2:43 marathon last year. Margaret Mahohoma (Zimbabwe) should challenge for the gold medals, too, with her 2:47 marathon time.

Most intriguing of the new Two Oceans runners is Thabita Tsatsa who holds the Zimbabwean national record for the marathon (2:29 from 2008), although she has run ultras and ran a 3:14 50k last year. That kind of pace could maybe challenge for the win.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • Who else loves the growing rivalry between Ellie Greenwood and the Nurgalieva twins?
  • Can anyone other than Greenwood or the twins take Two Oceans this year?
Ian Sharman
Ian Sharman is the Director of the Altra US Skyrunner Series, a professional running coach, and a sponsored ultrarunner who has competed in top-level races all over the globe.