Riana van Niekerk, the eighth woman to cross the finish line in the 2006 Comrades Marathon, will be flying the flag for South Africa in the Standard Chartered ‘Greatest Race on Earth’ second leg on 3 December in Singapore.
Fellow athlete Elana Meyer was originally scheduled to run the Singapore leg but has been forced to withdraw due to a minor calf injury. Farwa Mentor ran the first leg of the Greatest Race in Nairobi in October, completing that marathon in ninth position.
Billed as “the island race”, the Singapore marathon will be contested in hot and humid conditions following a course that takes in both the skyscrapers of the central business district and the city’s beautiful coastline. With an early morning temperature expected to register around the 25 degree Celsius, 85 per cent humidity level, the Race’s 6am start time is designed to protect runners from the overbearing heat of the day.
Pretoria-based van Niekerk has followed a comprehensive training programme in preparation for the Race. “During the past few months I have been running about 140 kilometres a week, and have also incorporated cycling and gym work into my programme,” she explained.
“As a marathon athlete I, in any event, eat lean protein and love carbohydrates. I also eat a lot of fruit and drink a lot of water.
“The heat and humidity in Singapore will be major factors so hydration will be crucial. However, having said that, I far prefer running in the heat to the cold,” added van Niekerk. “I will be going all out to cross the finish line in a time of about 2:50.”
Riana van Niekerk’s coach for Standard Chartered’s Greatest Race on Earth has been her husband, Allie, a former Springbok triathlete and provincial track athlete. “Riana is extremely fit and I will not be surprised if she runs a personal best of 2:45 in Singapore,” he said.
The Standard Chartered Greatest Race on Earth, a grueling four-leg, relay marathon contested in four countries over a five month period, carries a total prize purse of $1,5 million. It is being contested by 80 teams drawn from 30 different countries.
The South African women’s team is competing in the Women’s Team Challenge that features total cash prizes of $200 000. The winning team is calculated on the combined finishing times of the four athletes.
The team is also eligible for consideration in the Performance Awards, a category with prizes totaling $55 000.
The third and final legs of the Greatest Race will be contested by Louisa Leballo in Mumbai on January 21 and by Gloria Baebo in Hong Kong on March 4. Both athletes are, like van Niekerk, based in Pretoria.
Standard Chartered Bank, the creator and sponsor of the Race, is one of the world’s most international banks. The Bank has more than 50 000 employees in 56 countries including South Africa.