Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A call from J'burg: Hendrick Ramaala on the line

Hendrick, we were wondering what happened at Lake Biwa [Ramaala finished only eleventh in 2:15:29].
It was devastating. Cold rain all day. It was something like seven, eight Celcius. I just don’t like cold weather. And you know what? It was perfectly sunny the day before and the day after the race. But during the race, we had to run through big puddles. It rained that hard.

When did you fall off pace?
I went comfortably through half at 64:07 but soon thereafter I was dealing with calf cramps. It wasn’t meant to be for me. But I definitely still want to use the shape for something better than that.

So what’s the plan?
I tried to get into Boston or London but it was already too late. So I’m running Rock ‘n’ Roll in San Diego on June 6 before I will have a break.

Are Commonwealth Games on your schedule also?
No. That’s a race for young and upcoming athletes who want to gain international experience. Instead, I will run a fall marathon.

Are we gonna see you in NYC again?
You know my favourite! [laughs] We’ll see how it works out.

Have you ever run Fukuoka?
No. Lake Biwa was my first open marathon in Japan. Apart from that I only ran Worlds there where it was very hot and humid. So far, Japan was not a good place for me. [laughs] But NYC and London, those are and always will be my favourate races. I can run these races with closed eyes after what, seven?, eight? times there. So maybe for me it’s best I go somewhere I know.

I’m glad we get a chance to chat because we’re having the Mzungo Comrades special right now. You have not run it yet but you are the authority in South Africa when it comes to distance running. What’s the vibe these days about the race?
In training, everybody talks Comrades right now. Everybody. And if you run or jog down the streets, people wish you good luck for Comrades. Everybody assumes whoever runs will be part of Comrades.

Are you gonna watch the race?
I always watch it. It’s the biggest race in the country. A month from the race, everything is geared towards it. Comrades is the only race I never miss. It’s tradition here.

How would you explain a foreigner the fascination of Comrades?
Very difficult. How do you explain that some ten thousand runners, who are not even necessarily fit or in best shape, run 89km? You have to come and experience it yourself.

Who’s your favorite this year?
Muzhingi – not Mzungo! [laughs] – is the main man. He won last year very convincingly. He won Two Oceans. If he’s healthy, I don’t see how anyone else would win.

How do you gauge Josh Cox’s chances?
He has the speed but I hope he’s done the hills, downhills in particular. I drove the course by car one year and I don’t remember one flat section. I wish him well. It’s certainly good to get strong foreigners. People are used to Russians here but Americans, English, Brazilians, they all bring more foreign media to the race. If an American wins, it’s bigger news than a Russian win. And it’s five hours live on main TV in South Africa.

When do we see you giving it a shot?
For now everything is geared towards the London Olympics. I’m looking to break 2:10 on a fast course in spring next year. Qualification only starts August 2011 so I will need a good fall marathon also. After London, we’ll see.

So 2013?
Yes, maybe. I’m not in a rush. I’ve seen the training. I am not afraid of running longer. It’s normal for us in South Africa. You just run slower. It’s all about getting used to run 36min, 35min 10k pace. I will enjoy that.

Would be running first Two Oceans and then Comrades an option?
No. Comrades is the big one. Get people interested, run the real race and get over with it.

All eyes are on South Africa in June when the World Cup begins.
I hope we make the second round. It would keep the interest going. Having the World Cup is great for the country. The infrastructure improved significantly, roads are much better as is public transportation. It’s our chance to build the legacy for future generations.

Thanks Hendrick, always good talking to you. Good luck for San Diego!