There is something about the Old Mutual Om die Dam Ultra Marathon that gets Ludwick Mamabolo (Nedbank Running Club) to run near to his best each time he races.
Over the past eight years there has hardly been an Om die Dam race in which he has not finished in the top five. Last year he raced to a second-place finish, running a time of 3:01:48. His big year was 2003, when he won and set a new course record. The route has since changed. He has definitely set his sights on racing to another podium finish.
The seasoned 'road warrior' learned a long time ago that it is foolish to make bold predictions when competing in an ultrarace as overconfidence has a way of biting back at an inopportune moment. Therefore, he sticks to the refrain that come race day he will run to the best of his ability. Hopefully, that will be good enough. If it is not, he will live to fight another day.
'I never race against individuals in an ultrarace. As far as I am concerned, everyone who lines up alongside me can win on a good day as they must have done the similar sort of hard training as I have done and I expect them to be as hungry as I am to win. And remember ultraracing can be very unpredictable.'
The one thing Mamabolo is confident about is the fact that there will be at least one Nedbank Running Club athlete on the winner's podium on Saturday.
'The goal we set ourselves is that a Nedbank Running Club athlete must win Om die Dam and we are going to race hard to try ensuring that.'
Asked why Om die Dam is one of his favourite races Mamabolo immediately replies that he loves the scenic route.
'It is also a well-organised race. Om die Dam is sort of a barometer for me to show whether I am on track to run a good Two Oceans and Comrades.'
Mamabolo is actually on a mission this year. His main goal for 2017 is to win the Comrades again. He won the 2012 down run and came second in the 2010 and 2014 down runs. Until now his best result in the up run was finishing fourth in 2013. The fact that he has not yet been able to win an up run irks him.
'People perceive me to be just a good down-run runner but they are wrong and I am going to prove it to them this year, barring a serious injury. I know I am good enough to win the up run. If I do, I will make South African running history by becoming the first black athlete to win both the up run and down run.'